Michigan DOT completes NS rail line buy

Written by Douglas John Bowen

In time for the holiday season, the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT), Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and Norfolk Southern Railway Co. (NS) have finalized a $140 million agreement for MDOT to acquire ownership of 135 miles of NS right-of-way in the Wolverine State.

The route is used by Amtrak trains between Kalamazoo and Dearborn, Mich., part of Amtrak’s Detroit-to-Chicago service. Amtrak owns right-of-way west of Kalamazoo.

Norfolk Southern retains exclusive trackage rights along the route for freight operations.

The agreement, reached on Dec. 7, is designed to accelerate higher-speed rail (HrSR) improvements on the line to improve passenger train speeds up to 110 mph, with a goal of reducing Detroit-Chicago trip times by 30 minutes, to roughly five hours.

Transition to MDOT ownership will be gradual, with completion anticipated by spring. At that point, Amtrak will oversee infrastructure upgrades, including installation of welded rail, tie replacement, grade crossing safety improvements, and fiber-optic C&S additions.

Funding for the MDOT purchase came from FRA’s High-speed Intercity Passenger Rail Program, matched by $37.5 million from Michigan. . The FRA also awarded $196.5 million to MDOT for infrastructure improvements.

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