Groups Want Double Track Chicago-Detroit Route

Two passenger rail advocacy groups are calling for the installation of a second track to the Chicago-Detroit route used by Amtrak.

The Midwest Association of Railroad Passengers and the Midwest High Speed Rail Association said double-tracking the line would help Amtrak offer more service that operates more reliably and at higher speeds on the 300-mile route.

The Michigan Department of Transportation said it is in the process of studying the route with the purpose of making improvements that will allow for faster and more frequent service.

Bu MDOT said it is not considering double-tracking the entire route, which is used by six daily Amtrak Wolverine Service trains.

Once MDOT finishes its study and route changes are made, the Chicago-Detroit corridor will have about 160 miles of single track.

“We think the state should be planning for a lot of growth on the corridor,” said Rick Harnish, executive director of Midwest High Speed Rail Association. “That means you have to have two tracks, an east track and a west track, the whole way.”

MDOT officials said they considered double-tracking the Chicago-Detroit route in Michigan but decided against it.

“A capacity analysis concluded that double-tracking the entire corridor in Michigan was not necessary to accommodate full build-out service,” said MDOT spokesman Michael Frezell.

Full build-out refers to the goal of having 10 daily Chicago-Detroit roundtrips with trains traveling at an average speed of 58 miles per hour.

MDOT’s objective is to reduce the Chicago-Pontiac travel time to 5 hours, 16 minutes compared with today’s 6 hours, 40 minutes.

Frezell said such things as cab signals, GPS and other technological improvements would be able to reduce the running time without the need for continuous double track.

“MDOT is being fiscally responsible by not double-tracking the entire railroad now,” Frezell said. “If conditions change in the future there is always the opportunity to expand capacity in the existing right of way because the railroad was once double-tracked and the rail bed remains.”

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magilara said that in fiscal year 2014 the Wolverines carried 477,157 passengers.

However, ridership in FY 2015 fell to 465,627. The fiscal year runs from October to September.

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