USDOT Announces $15.8 Million Funding Agreement to Eliminate Detroit Rail Bottleneck

From a USDOT press release:

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced May 10, 2012 a final agreement of $15.8 million for the West Detroit Connection Track project that will eliminate congestion for Detroit-area Amtrak passengers by addressing a bottleneck that comes from serving both freight and passenger rail on the same tracks.

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Railroad Administration is providing a grant for $7.9 million, which is being matched with another $7.9 million from the State of Michigan.  The project is set to break ground in West Detroit later this year.

“President Obama’s bold vision of investing in rail projects like the West Detroit Connection Track will create jobs and grow our economy over the long-term by moving people and goods more quickly and efficiently than ever before,” said Secretary LaHood.  “In eliminating a longstanding bottleneck, we are creating capacity to handle future rail demand as our population grows, while strengthening the foundation for economic development across the region.”

Currently both freight and intercity passenger trains make a connection through Bay City Junction.  The West Detroit Connection Track project will provide new track to separate freight and passenger train movements. Amtrak’s “Wolverine” service, which provides three daily round trips between Chicago and Detroit/Pontiac, will use the new track. West Detroit Junction is a key link between the Dearborn Station and the Detroit New Center Station.  In 2009, this track moved 444,127 passengers on the Wolverine service.

West Detroit Junction is a key part of the Chicago to Detroit line, which has seen nearly $400 million in federal investments in the state of Michigan under president Obama’s High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail Program. The line now reaches speeds of 110 mph between Porter, IN and Kalamazoo, MI and will reach 110 mph on 80 percent of the track by 2016.

The Chicago to Detroit line is part of the Midwest Regional Rail Network, which is located in one of five densely populated mega-regions, areas already overwhelmed by congestion and in need of better transportation options. Bringing safe, fast, convenient, affordable high-speed rail to these areas will create jobs, increase economic opportunities and relieve congestion.

“This is yet another example of how federal, state, and local governments, as well as the railroads, are working hard to eliminate rail bottlenecks and improve service for both freight and passenger rail customers,” said Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph C. Szabo.

More than 100 million people call the Midwest region home. Using the Gross Domestic Product as a measure, the Great Lakes-Midwest economic region would be the fifth largest economy if it were its own country.

The Federal Railroad Administration and its 32 state partners are making great progress on High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail Program-related projects across the country. With $10.1 billion in federal funding, they’re moving forward with 153 projects, laying the foundation for a 21st century passenger rail network.