passenger rail

Transportation
10:56 am
Mon January 6, 2014

Weather stalls Amtrak train for 8.5 hours in Michigan

An Amtrak train at the Ann Arbor station.
smaedli Creative Commons

NILES, Mich. (AP) - An Amtrak train carrying more than 200 people has arrived in Chicago after weather-related problems caused it to stop for more than eight hours in southwestern Michigan.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari says the train's engine lost power Sunday due to cold weather. But he says heat, lights and restrooms still worked.

The train started in Pontiac, north of Detroit, and had trouble between Niles and New Buffalo in the corner of southwestern Michigan. It was later connected to another westbound train and arrived in Chicago around 1:30 a.m. CST Monday.

Magliari says passengers may have been frustrated but they were always safe on the stalled train. He says it was better to keep them on the train rather than switch to buses, even if buses were available.

Offbeat
12:00 pm
Thu November 21, 2013

VIDEO: Real-life Polar Express back on the tracks in Michigan

The Pere Marquette 1225 rolls into view in Owosso
Mercedes Mejia Michigan Radio

The steam engine that inspired the children's book The Polar Express and provided sounds for the movie version is back in service after a four-year refurbishment project.

The Pere Marquette 1225 rolled out of the garage Wednesday in Owosso, ringing its bell and spewing steam for train enthusiasts and volunteers gathered to watch the engine take its maiden voyage following the overhaul.

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Transportation
1:41 pm
Sun September 29, 2013

Michigan's Amtrak subsidy is about to triple

Jackson's train station (file photo)
Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Beginning Tuesday, the subsidy that Amtrak gets from the state of Michigan is about to triple, from $8 million to nearly $25 million a year.   

The reason for the increase is a 2008 federal law that requires greater cost sharing between the federal government and the states where Amtrak operates.

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Transportation
12:26 am
Mon August 26, 2013

A conference in Lansing this week will attempt to put Michigan railroads on the right track

en.wikipedia.org

In Lansing this week, a group hopes to lay the course for developing Michigan's railroads.

There is a growing demand for passenger and freight rail transportation. But the question is how to increase capacity on the rail lines that crisscross Michigan.

Tuesday’s conference at Lansing Community College will try to answer that capacity question.

Pasi Lautala is an engineering professor at Michigan Technological University and the director of the MTU Rail Transportation Program.   He’s also one of the co-chairs of the conference.

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Economy
10:39 am
Fri August 9, 2013

New trains to be built for higher speed rail in the Midwest

Inside an Amtrak train.
user Braniff747SP wikimedia commons

States in the Midwest are moving forward with their plans to increase the speed of passenger trains.

The Federal Railroad Administration announced that several states will join together to purchase new passenger rail equipment:

The Request for Proposals (RFP) to manufacture approximately 35 new diesel-electric locomotives in America comes from a groundbreaking multi-state effort to jointly purchase standardized rail equipment to be used on state corridor routes in Illinois, Michigan, Missouri and Iowa in the Midwest and Washington, California, and Oregon on the West Coast. 

The FRA has set aside $808 million for the purchase of the locomotives and for 130 new bi-level train cars.

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Transportation
2:02 pm
Mon November 12, 2012

Commuter rail cars to be tested between Pontiac and Jackson

MDOT is testing six, newly refurbished commuter rail cars today.
MDOT

Some refurbished commuter rail cars will start test runs in southeast Michigan today.

The stainless steel, bi-level cars will run on tracks between Pontiac and Jackson.

State officials hope the cars will eventually be used for separate commuter rail lines connecting Detroit and Ann Arbor, and Ann Arbor and Livingston County.

Janet Foran is with the Michigan Department of Transportation.

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Transportation
12:50 pm
Fri August 17, 2012

$15.8 million in federal funds on the table for Michigan road projects

More money for Michigan transportation projects?
user theed17 wikimedia commons

The U.S. Department of Transportation announced today it will make available $473 million in road funds to states with pending transportation projects.

In a press release, U.S. Department of Transportation said the money comes from unspent earmarks from FY 2003-2006.

Effective today, state departments of transportation will have the ability to use their unspent earmarked highway funds, some of which are nearly 10 years old, on any eligible highway, transit, passenger rail, or port project.

The Detroit News reports Michigan has $15.8 million in 28 projects that hasn't been spent that the state can redirect.

"It will be up to Michigan how to decide to spend their money," LaHood said.

State departments of transportation will have the ability to use their unspent earmarked highway money, some of which is nearly 10 years old, on any eligible highway, transit, passenger rail, or port project.

The Obama Administration wants the money spent soon. To use the funds, states must identify projects by October 1, and must obligate them by December 31, 2012.

Transportation
2:17 pm
Tue February 7, 2012

Amtrak gets green light for higher train speeds in Michigan and Indiana

At one point, Amtrak trains were ordered to speeds of 25 m.p.h. on parts of the Wolverine line.
user amtrak_russ Flickr

Maximum train speeds on Amtrak's Wolverine and Blue Water lines can increase to 110 m.p.h. on an 80 mile stretch of track between Kalamazoo and Porter, Indiana.

Amtrak and MDOT officials say the higher speed is the fastest allowed outside the Northeast Corridor.

Amtrak's Acela Express train, which travels between Boston and Washington D.C., can reach speeds up to 150 m.p.h.

Approval was given after successful testing of a "positive train control safety system" installed on the tracks.

From an Amtrak and MDOT press release:

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Developing
3:15 pm
Wed February 1, 2012

Chicago-bound Amtrak train in Michigan derails near Jackson

An Amtrak train collided with a semi-truck near Jackson, Michigan
(JTV)

Update 3:15 p.m. - Workers hope to reopen rail line tomorrow

10 people were injured today when an Amtrak train collided with a semi-truck between Ann Arbor and Jackson.   None of the injuries were life-threatening.

The accident derailed the train’s engine and two passenger cars.   The collision also heavily damaged the tracks and the crossing. 

But a company spokesman says they hope to reopen the line by tomorrow morning.

David Pidgeon is a spokesman for Norfolk-Southern, which owns and operates the railroad that runs across southern Michigan.

 “Six passenger trains a day use that particular line…and another four to five trains of freight (a day) also use that line," says Pidgeon, "So we need to get that line open…as safely and efficiently as possible.”

While the section of track is being repaired, passengers are making part of their trip by bus.

2:17 p.m. - 10 injured

MLive.com reports that "a total of 10 people were injured" in this morning's Amtrak derailment in Leoni Township.

Blackman-Leoni Township Public Safety Director Mike Jester said all were taken to Allegiance Health with non-life threatening injuries. Authorities had previously reported six injured.

11:50 a.m. - Passengers re-routed

A westbound Amtrak train collided with a truck this morning between Jackson and Ann Arbor.

There were no life-threatening injuries. The collision left the train’s engine on its side and knocked two passenger cars off the tracks.    

Marc Magliari is an Amtrak spokesman. He says  Amtrak will bus passengers around the crash site while repairs are under way. 

“Passengers who are ticketed …let’s say eastbound passed Jackson…would be taken by chartered motorcoach…to the Ann Arbor station where they’ll meet another train and continue on," says Magliari.

 It’s unclear how long it will take to remove the derailed train and repair the damage done to the rails. 

About a half million passengers rode on Amtrak’s Wolverine line last year. 

Here's video from the Jackson Citizen Patriot speaking with Blackman-Leoni Township Public Safety Director Mike Jester:

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Commentary
11:12 am
Mon January 30, 2012

Riding the Rails

I have been traveling by air for most of my adult life, and for a few years, flew somewhere at least once a week.

Yet while I took trains in Europe and Japan, it never occurred to me to do so from Detroit. Amtrak, people said, took forever and was a fairly nasty experience; a shabby relic of transportation’s past.

However, air travel has become less and less fun, from the increasingly cramped seats and loss of anything resembling service, and more and more intrusive security procedures.

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Transportation
2:27 pm
Tue November 1, 2011

Governor Snyder touts higher speed Rail for Michigan

The 135 miles of rail line from Dearborn to Kalamazoo will be owned by the state of Michigan. The state is purchasing the line from Norfolk Southern Railway with the help of federal stimulus money. Once completed, the upgraded line will increase speeds.
user Want2Know Flickr

Governor Rick Snyder met with lawmakers, federal officials and the railroad industry yesterday to talk about the future of rail transportation in our state.

Rick Pluta is the State Capitol Bureau Chief for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He was at the Michigan Rail Summit and he joined me to talk more about this.

So Rick, what did the Governor say?

Rick Pluta: Rebecca, the governor is a big fan of rail service. He says it's a big part of the future of the state.

This is what he had to say to this rail summit:

"This isn't about a piece of rail in Michigan. This is about being the centerpiece of a broader logistical connection that goes all the way from St. Louis to Chicago to Detroit and I would like to see it continue on to Toronto and to Montreal."

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Transportation
11:26 am
Tue November 1, 2011

Does it make sense to invest more in Michigan's rail system?

The miles of railroad track in Michigan today matches the miles of track we had back in 1880.
Draft Michigan Rail Plan MDOT

This was an interesting graph I came across in MDOT's draft report, Michigan State Rail Plan.

The miles of railroad we have in the state today, match what we had back in 1880.

The state went from a peak of 9,059 miles in 1909, to 3,900 miles today - a decline of almost 60%.

It makes sense.

The internal combustion engine began competing with rail at the turn of the last century. Trucks and cars began moving more freight and people.

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Transportation
3:57 pm
Mon October 31, 2011

Detroit to Chicago in less than 4 hours? 3 upgrades for Michigan passenger rail

The 135 miles of rail line from Dearborn to Kalamazoo will be owned by the state of Michigan. The state is purchasing the line from Norfolk Southern Railway with the help of federal stimulus money. Once completed, the upgraded line will increase speeds.
MDOT

Most of the upgrades are happening along the Detroit to Chicago route. That's because this line was designated as a high speed rail corridor by the federal government back in 1992.

With that designation comes federal grant dollars.

And recently, it has meant hundreds of millions of federal stimulus dollars.

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Transportation
5:38 pm
Mon October 3, 2011

Michigan close to buying rail line for higher-speed travel

The state is close to finishing a deal with a freight rail company to buy a 140 mile stretch of track between Detroit and Chicago.
user amtrak_russ Flickr

The state is very close to finalizing a deal to buy almost 140 miles of railway that would complete a high-speed connection for passengers traveling between Detroit and Chicago.

The state could announce a bargain with the Norfolk Southern Railroad as soon as this week.

The cost will be about one million dollars per mile of rail. Most of the money will come from the federal government.

Hugh McDiarmid is with the Michigan Environmental Council, one of the groups supporting the project. He said the rail line could be the first leg of an eventual statewide rapid transit network.

"Right now, someone from Traverse City would have to drive down to Kalamazoo or Detroit or something to hop a train to Chicago and that’s not very convenient," said McDiarmid. "But this is moving us a little bit closer to the day when hopefully we’ll connecting Traverse City to Detroit; we’ll be connecting Kalamazoo to Traverse City to Chicago."

Once the purchase is wrapped up, the state will go to work on upgrades that will allow trains to travel at speeds of up to 110 miles per hour between Dearborn and Kalamazoo. The Kalmazoo-to-Chicago stretch is already upgraded.

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Transportation
2:44 pm
Fri April 15, 2011

More Michiganders riding Amtrak

Amtrak lines in Michigan get more riders
cbassweb MorgueFile

Michiganders are taking the train more than they have in the past. Amtrak officials say they've seen an increase in the number of riders on all three of their Michigan lines. Two of those lines are supported by the state.

Amtrak’s Blue Water Service runs from Port Huron through Lansing to Chicago. It had one of the largest increases in ridership in the nation.

Janet Foran  is with the Michigan Department of Transportation. She says some of the growth is likely from the rise in gas prices and the interest in building high speed rail in the state:

“Because of the talk about high speed rail in the State of Michigan, this has actually been a major factor in increasing the interest of people to try passenger rails.”

M-DOT said ridership usually increases during the holiday season and summer. They expect ridership will continue to grow in the state.

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