Amtrak approves increased speeds on some Michigan routes

SOUTHWEST MICHIGAN – Amtrak and the Michigan Department of Transportation have received federal approval to increase maximum speeds of Amtrak Midwest trains to 110 mph on certain sections of track between Amtrak stations in Kalamazoo and Albion.

Effective May 25, the accelerated speeds come following key infrastructure improvements and successful testing of the positive train control safety system on 45 miles of MDOT-owned track.

Also, an additional Pontiac/Detroit-Chicago Wolverine Service round trip returns on July 19 and will see its on-time performance improve thanks to higher speeds allowing trains to recover from potential delays elsewhere on the route.    

“Michigan will have the first state-owned rail corridor with passenger trains travelling up to 110 mph,” said State Transportation Director Paul C. Ajegba. “I am proud of the partnership and hard work among MDOT, Amtrak, and its contractors to modernize this vital rail corridor. Passengers will truly benefit from the safety and reliability this important work has provided.”   

This marks another phase of MDOT and Amtrak-led safety improvements leading to accelerated speed increases on the Detroit/Pontiac-Chicago corridor. The first phases led to speeds increasing to a maximum of 110 mph on Amtrak-owned track between Porter, Indiana, and Kalamazoo.

Faster speeds will improve the reliability of the Amtrak Wolverine Service with daily round trips between Pontiac and Chicago via Detroit and Ann Arbor, and the Amtrak Blue Water trains with one daily round trip between Port Huron and Chicago via East Lansing.

“This expansion of 110 mph service is a major milestone in developing one of the high-performance ‘spokes’ of our Amtrak Midwest hub, centered in Chicago,” said Joe Shacter, Amtrak senior manager for these state-sponsored corridors. “Our 50th anniversary year at Amtrak also is the 47th year of our Michigan partnership, and the prospects for further service improvements in the Great Lakes State have never been greater.”    

When the second Wolverine returns on July 19, eastbound trains 350 and 354 will depart Chicago at 7:20 a.m. and 5:50 p.m., respectively. Westbound trains 351 and 355 will depart Pontiac at 5:43 a.m. and 5:35 p.m., respectively. All times are local.

Business Class and café service are available on all MDOT-sponsored Amtrak services, including the Blue Water (trains 364 and 365) and the Pere Marquette (trains 370 and 371) daily between Grand Rapids and Chicago. Those service levels are unchanged.

Motorists, pedestrians, and bicyclists always should use caution when in proximity to this important rail corridor. Trains can appear to be quieter and not as fast as they actually are as they approach.

To ensure safety along portions of the corridor, special equipment monitors the functionality of crossing lights and gates, alerting the train crews of any potential problems. Fencing also has been installed in select areas to prevent trespassing.

Accelerated speeds are just one part of the ongoing passenger rail improvements in Michigan that have included new stations, new locomotives, track enhancements, new grade crossings, and other safety upgrades. Starting later this year, new passenger railcars will be deployed on all Amtrak Michigan trains and other Amtrak Midwest corridors.

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