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3 Michigan Amtrak stations to get high-speed rail upgrades

(The following story by Chris Christoff appeared on the Detroit Free Press website on January 27, 2010.)

DETROIT — Three Amtrak stations in Michigan – including Dearborn’s – will be replaced or renovated with $40 million in federal grants, as part of federal grants totaling $8 billion to create or improve 13 major high-speed rail networks in the U.S.

The money for Michigan is a fraction of the $800 million the state Department of Transportation had requested to shore up Michigan’s segments of a Pontiac to Chicago rail network that is dotted with old, cramped train stations and rails that need improvements.

The grants will be announced later today by President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden in Tampa, Fla., where one of the largest grants -- $1.25 billion – will pay to build 84 miles of high speed rail and stations between Tampa and Orlando.

It will be Obama’s first public appearance following his State of the Union speech Wednesday night, and is aimed at highlighting the administration’s promises to create new jobs and spur economic growth.

The $8 billion for high speed rail projects is part of the $787 billion in federal stimulus money approved last year.

Michigan will receive $40 million to build a new passenger train station in downtown Dearborn, and to renovate stations in Troy and Battle Creek.

The Pontiac-Chicago rail system will also receive $133 million to fix up Amtrak stations and tracks in Illinois, and $71 million for track improvements that will reduce slowdowns of passenger trains caused by freight train traffic.

California is the biggest recipient of the high speed rail grants. It will receive $2.34 billion for various projects around the state.

Also, $1.1 billion will be awarded to create a 110 m.p.h. passenger rail system between Chicago and St. Louis.

Some rail travel experts have questioned whether the $8 billion is enough to create truly high speed rail systems that are expansive enough to make a difference in commuter travel among car-conscious Americans.

Top speeds of the U.S. trains would typically be 110 m.p.h., half the speed of so-called bullet trains in Europe and Japan.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

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