…Rail Program from Pontiac to Chicago, Hearing Oct. 28

Public Comment on Passenger Rail Program from Pontiac to Chicago, Hearing Oct. 28sidebar01sponsor

(Crystal A. Proxmire, Oct. 5, 2014)

What is in store for the rail system in Michigan, particularly the rail between Detroit/Pontiac and Chicago? Michigan and surrounding states have been doing major research and planning looking at this issue, and a public hearing will be held on Oct. 28. The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT), one of several agencies partnering in the Great Lakes Rail Program, will also be accepting public comment through Dec. 19.

The Great Lakes Rail Chicago-Detroit/Pontiac Rail Corridor Program is looking at ways to improve the rail system including by offering “more frequent, reliable, and higher-speed passenger train petsittingservice using modern train equipment with improved passenger comfort, convenience and amenities,” according to the Environmental Impact Statement.

Amtrak operates the Wolverine line as part of their national rail system, and is provided at no cost to the state. In 2011, 503,290 passenger trips were made between Chicago and Detroit using Amtrak’s Wolverine line. Ridership on Michigan’s passenger rail lines overall totaled 775,997 in 2010, which is a 50 percent increase from 1999.

The Wolverine is the most highly utilized route operating on the Chicago-Detroit-Pontiac corridor. This corridor is a key component of the Midwest Regional Rail Initiative (MWRRI) and is a federally designated High-Speed Rail corridor. The 97-mile segment between Kalamazoo, Mich., and Porter, Ind., is the only corridor outside the Northeast Corridor that is owned by Amtrak and is designed for train speeds up to 110 mph. Most of the Wolverine line is on tracks where speeds 934_8600_Gen-Online_Banners3cannot surpass 79 mph. Wolverine trains take approximately 6 hours 30 minutes to travel the approximately 300 miles between Chicago and Pontiac, Michigan, an average speed of 47 mph. The 29 – mile stretch of Norfolk Southern Railway’s Chicago Line between Porter, Indiana, and the Indiana/Illinois state line is the single most delay – prone intercity passenger rail corridor in the country. Fourteen Amtrak passenger trains currently traverse the Corridor daily along with approximately 87 daily freight trains.

The current passenger rail service is not competitive with other modes of travel . In 2011, Michigan’s Amtrak corridor had the worst on – time performance of the Amtrak system, being on – time only 33.1% of the time due to infrastructure robert wittenberg election 2014 adand facility deficiencies.

Improving the rail system would have many advantages, according to the IES. Among them would be the ability for communities to build business around their train stations, reducing traffic on roads and airports, and providing safe cross-state travel in snowy conditions. The IES takes into consideration the growing number of older adults who may chose train travel over driving.

Comparing the travel times between planes, trains and automobiles can be helpful in understanding the importance of efficient rail travel. “Assuming no weather related delays, air travel is the fastest mode of transportation between Chicago and Detroit , followed by automobile travel and then travel by passenger rail . Flight time between Chicago’s Midway Airport and Detroit Wayne County Metropolitan Airport is approximately 30 minutes. However, when adding required time to clear security, board and deplane, end to end total travel time is more likely in the range of 2 hours to 2 hours and 45 minutes. 19 The estimated travel time of automobile travel seed032sheryl_l_mitchellbetween Chicago and Detroit is 4 hours and 38 minutes assuming free – flow travel conditions. 20 Amtrak’s shortest existing service between Detroit and Chicago is estimated at 5 hours and 36 minutes. 21 If infrastructure improvements are made to alleviate the congested conditions within the Corridor and conditions were improved to allow train speeds to be increased to 110 miles per hour along the Corridor, end – to – end Chicago – Detroit/Pontiac travel time could be reduced by approximately 2 hours, as preliminary schedules ( Appendix C ) indicate express travel time between Chicago and Detroit is 3 hours and 46 minutes . This travel time savings would make passenger rail service more reliable and more likely to succeed in attracting ridership, ctechadincreasing mobility and providing greater environmental benefits within the Corridor,” the IES states.

Another consideration raised by MDOT is the impact on the planet. “Rail travel is the most energy efficient land-based transportation mode in the country reducing fuel consumption and air pollution. According to the Texas Transportation Institute, one gallon of fuel will carry one ton of freight 413 miles via rail, as compared to 155 miles by truck. This reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 53 percent. Intercity passenger rail also provides air quality benefits by reducing vehicle miles and airline trips. According to the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, intercity passenger rail uses 21 percent less energy per passenger mile than autos and 17 percent less than airlines,’ noted MDOT’s Rail Plan Executive Summary.gallowaycollens1

The public meeting for Michiganders will be held on Tuesday, Oct. 28, 2014 from 4 to 7 p.m. EST at the Dearborn Intermodal Passenger Rail Station, 20201 W. Michigan Ave., Dearborn, MI 48124.

Documents are available for viewing on the program website. Go to www.greatlakesrail.org and then select “public hearings.” The Tier 1 Draft EIS also is available on CD and/or hard copy, by Sept. 26, 2014, at locations such as libraries and municipal offices. To find the nearest location, click on “document review sites” on the “public hearings” page.

Public comments must be submitted by Dec. 19, 2014, for the public record. Comments may be dda_ad_06submitted as follows:

– Provide written or oral comments at a public hearing

– Use the online comment form at www.greatlakesrail.org

– E-mail: mdot-hsr-detroit-pontiac-chicago@michigan.gov

– Call toll-free: 877- 351-0853

– Mail your written comments to:

Robert Parsons

Public Hearings Officernicholas-schrock-allstate

Michigan Department of Transportation

P.O. Box 30050

Lansing, MI 48909

After considering all public input, a Final EIS will be prepared and released for public review. The Final EIS will identify a preferred route alternative and level of service.

In August 2011, MDOT and its partnering state agencies were selected for a $3.2 million federal grant from the Federal Railroad Administration’s High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail (HSIPR) Program to complete this project. MDOT and its state partners provided the required 20 percent matching funds for a total study cost of $4 million.

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