110 MPH Amtrak train approved in Michigan


Train commuters in Michigan will now be traveling at 110 MPH, as the first expansion of regional high-speed trains outside the northeastern United States began on Tuesday.

The 110 MPH increase, up from 95 MPH, shaves off 20 minutes of travel time, and is being implemented on about 80 miles of a 97-mile stretch of Amtrak-owned track between Kalamazoo, Michigan and Porter, Indiana, The Chicago Tribune reported

Amtrak and the Illinois Department of Transportation have similar plans for the Chicago-St. Louis corridor, NBC News reported

“This can give people a taste of what higher speeds will be like in Michigan,” Michigan Department Of Transportation spokeswoman Janet Foran told the Detroit Free Press

The increase in speed follows the the Federal Railroad Administration’s approval of a positive train control system: technology which safeguards against human error and prevents train-to-train collisions. However, the new system does not include vehicle-detection technology, which notifies train crews if a vehicle is stopped on the tracks at a crossing, according to the Tribune. 

Federal railroad officials told the Tribune that the Michigan railroad plan meets all regulations, and that “an acceptable level of grade crossing risk’’ is something that is determined by the state. 

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“This was not a decision we made lightly,’’ Tim Hoeffner, director of the Office of Rail at the Michigan Department of Transportation, told the Tribune. “One of the most important factors is that we are dealing with the railroad in a part of the state where people understand the issues better and have a better grasp that when the flashing lights, bells and gates go on, the train is going to be there quickly and leave quickly." 

On Feb. 1, an Amtrak train derailed near Jackson, Michigan when it hit a truck that was caught on the tracks, the Tribune reported. At least 10 people on board the Chicago-bound train were injured. 

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Amtrak has been working for over 10 years to increase speeds between Detroit and Chicago, from maximums of 79 MPH to 90 in 2002 and then 95 MPH in 2005, the Free Press reported. 

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