First Runner-Up in Latest Round of High-Speed Rail Funding - The Midwest
Posted in High-Speed Rail

As discussed in yesterday's post on California, three big winners have emerged from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s announcement of $2 billion in federal funds to 15 states for 22 different high-speed and intercity passenger rail projects.  The second biggest winner of this funding round is the Midwest region.

Illinois received $186 million for upgrades and improvements to the Chicago – St. Louis corridor between Dwight and Joliet, Ill., to allow trains to operate at 110 mph (from 79 mph) and increase operational flexibility and reliability.  Also on the Chicago – St. Louis corridor, Missouri received $13.5 million for design work on a new span to replace the circa-1890 Merchant’s Bridge over the Mississippi River.

Michigan received $196 million for track rehabilitation and positive train control implementation along the Chicago – Detroit corridor between Kalamazoo and Dearborn, which will allow trains to travel at 110 mph for 235 miles.  Michigan also received $2.8 million for preliminary engineering and environmental work on a new high-speed rail station in Ann Arbor, Mich.

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder welcomed the news, stating that an investment of this magnitude can spur economic development in our communities with rail stations, and provide access to a 21st century rail system that will help Michigan citizens compete in a global economy.

In addition to the funds for track work, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan and Missouri received $268 million for the purchase of 48 passenger rail cars and seven locomotives for eight separate intercity rail corridors.  The new bi-level cars replace aging and obsolete Amtrak equipment and can travel at speeds up to 125 mph.

All told, yesterday Midwestern states received approximately $657 million of the $2 billion in federal funds redistributed from the canceled Florida high-speed rail project.

"This is a big deal," said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. "America's ready for high-speed rail. Nothing can stand in the way of it. We're going to create a huge economic corridor between Chicago and Detroit and beyond."

The federally-designated Chicago Hub Network envisions mostly incremental upgrades to increase speeds of existing passenger rail service on a variety of rail lines radiating from Chicago, including service to St. Louis, Detroit, Milwaukee, Indianapolis, Des Moines, Cleveland, and Minneapolis.  While newly installed governors in Wisconsin and Ohio have rejected federal funds over concerns about operating subsidies and cost overruns, states like Illinois and Michigan have welcomed the passenger rail funding.  Total federal funds now awarded to Midwestern states for high-speed and intercity passenger rail include nearly $1.5 billion for Illinois, $400 million for Michigan, $230 million for Iowa, and $71 million for Indiana.

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