Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Midwest makes move for high(er) speed rail funds

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Seeking to capture a significant portion of the $8 billion in federal stimulus money targeted for high speed rail, eight governors from Midwest states have written Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood for $3.5 billion to be applied to regional rail upgrades.

The state leaders envision establishing a regional network, with Chicago as the hub, operating trains at relatively modest “high” speeds up to 110 mph serving three routes terminating at Detroit, St. Louis, and Madison, Wis. (mostly likely via Milwaukee). Future extensions would include links to Indianapolis, Cleveland, and Minneapolis.

Amtrak at present serves each city (except Madison), with multiple frequencies linking Chicago with St. Louis, Detroit, and Milwaukee. Train speeds often are limited to 79 mph, though one short stretch on the Chicago-Detroit route has been upgraded to 110 mph standards.

Governors from Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, and Wisconsin co-signed the letter to LaHood.