Amtrak and the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) have received federal approval to increase maximum speeds of Amtrak trains in western Michigan and northern Indiana to 110 mph following successful installation and testing of a positive train control safety system on Amtrak-owned track between Kalamazoo, Mich., and Porter, Ind.
Amtrak and MDOT will celebrate the faster service in February , details to be announced.
“This is the first expansion of regional high speed rail outside the Amtrak-owned Northeast Corridor,” said President and CEO Joseph Boardman. “With our partners in Michigan, we will extend this 110 mph service from Kalamazoo to the state’s central and eastern regions in the coming years.”
“Our state put the world on wheels and continues to be a leading transportation innovator,” said MDOT State Transportation Director Kirk T. Steudle. “Recognizing changing demographics and a burgeoning interest in passenger rail travel, we are proud to be the first state outside the Northeast corridor to enable 110 mph service.”
Amtrak began raising speeds on this corridor from 79 mph in 2001 to 90 mph in 2002 and to 95 mph in 2005. Sustained operations at 110 mph will shave 10 minutes from the 95 mph schedules and about 20 minutes from the 2001 schedules on the Amtrak-owned segment of the corridor.
The Amtrak Wolverine Service—with three daily round-trips between Pontiac and Chicago via Detroit and Ann Arbor—and the Amtrak Blue Water—daily between Port Huron and Chicago via East Lansing—use this corridor. The Amtrak Pere Marquette uses a different route in Michigan to Grand Rapids.
Incremental Train Control System (ITCS) installed on the Amtrak-owned Michigan Line between Kalamazoo and Porter has been developed by General Electric Transportation Systems with assistance from Amtrak, MDOT and the U.S. Federal Railroad Administration (FRA). Last year, Amtrak extended ITCS coverage to the western and eastern ends of the line between New Buffalo and Porter and between Oshtemo and Kalamazoo, completing the system across 97 miles of track and permitting the higher speeds on about 80 miles of the route, 64 miles in Michigan and 16 in Indiana.
The successful deployment of ITCS on the Amtrak-owned route segment in western Michigan also sets the stage for the expansion of 110 mph service from Kalamazoo to near Dearborn on the track segment being purchased by MDOT from Norfolk Southern Railway.
Boardman also pointed out this is the first of two 110 mph “spokes” from the “Chicago hub,” with Amtrak and the Illinois Department of Transportation partnering on similar plans on the Chicago-St. Louis corridor where federal regulations also require the use of a train control safety technology.