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Posted on Thu, Jan 28, 2010 : 2:25 p.m.

High-speed rail grants include $244 million for Detroit-to-Chicago Amtrak improvements

By Nathan Bomey

Ann Arbor's Amtrak station won't get renovation dollars from federal stimulus money awarded today, but travelers who take the train to Chicago may see improvements in the service.

President Barack Obama today is announcing the distribution of $8 billion in economic stimulus grants to invest in high-speed rail initiatives and various rail projects. The funding comes from the federal government's $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

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The federal government is investing $244 million to upgrade the rail service from Detroit to Chicago.

The Department of Transportation said today that it would spend $244 million to upgrade the Detroit-to-Chicago Amtrak service, commonly called the Wolverine Line, which stops in Ann Arbor.

The funding may improve the chances of turning the line into a high-speed rail corridor in the future, but it won't lead to significant changes immediately.

U.S. Rep. John Dingell, D-Michigan, greeted the news with a mixed reaction.

“Today’s commitment of $40 million in high-speed rail funding for Michigan is a step forward, however, it falls short of jump-starting the Detroit-to-Chicago corridor as envisioned by the Midwest Regional Rail Initiative," Dingell said in a statement. "Detroit-to-Chicago can never be a reality without investment in rail that can support high-speeds.  I urge the Obama Administration and Secretary LaHood to continue to work with the Midwest, one of the most economically depressed regions in the nation, on developing this critical piece of infrastructure and creating jobs where they are needed the most.”

The funding includes:

• $40 million to renovate the Troy and Battle Creek stations and construct a new station in Dearborn.

• $133 million for various upgrades along the route, including approach bridges and retaining walls.

• $71 million to fund signal system improvements and other minor upgrades designed to speed up train service slightly.

Michigan's Department of Transportation had requested some $800 million in rail grants from the stimulus package.

Economic development officials and business leaders believe a high-speed rail system from Detroit to Chicago could create jobs and economic activity. But creating such a system is likely to cost billions of dollars and involve a variety of sticky political hurdles, including negotiations with freight train companies.

Among the biggest winners were projects connecting San Francisco and Los Angeles ($2.25 billion); Tampa and Orlando ($1.25 billion); Chicago and St. Louis ($1.1 billion); and Milwaukee and Madison ($810 million).

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood wrote in a blog post that the grants are necessary to pave the way for future investments.

"These efforts on existing routes and emerging corridors will lay the groundwork for future high-speed and intercity rail development," LaHood said.

More coverage from other news sources:

Los Angeles Times: Obama to announce $8 billion in grants for high-speed rail

Detroit Free Press: 3 Michigan stations to get funds

Sacramento Business Journal: California gets $2.25 billion for high-speed rail

Boston Globe: New England receives 2 percent of high-speed rail funds

Associated Press: $1.1 billion for Chicago-to-St. Louis project

Miami Herald: Florida project big winner in rail announcement

Dayton Daily News: Ohio wins $400 million

Contact’s Nathan Bomey at (734) 623-2587 or You can also follow him on Twitter.



Sat, Jan 30, 2010 : 2:26 p.m.

Good reading about amtrak; public transport systems are all heavily subsidized.


Fri, Jan 29, 2010 : 12:52 p.m.

I agree with some of the posts that if we do plan mass transit why don't the terminals interact with other transportation venues such as airports, freeway park and ride lots, also why not some stations that involve a freight terminal so the "people" trains can also haul some freight?? Diversity is valued everywhere but high speed rail??


Fri, Jan 29, 2010 : 11:19 a.m.

Thanks Phil for the information. I wish the critics who fill this space with cynical superlatives would follow your lead. Also, it's dangerous to generalize the normal travel experience from the one or two bad anecdotes.


Fri, Jan 29, 2010 : 10:21 a.m.

Great comment "Phil K" most of the negative opinions about the train seem to come from folks who just feel like being critical. I ride to Chicago at least 5 times a year, it is only 30 mins longer than a car ride, I can nap, read a book and if traveling with the kids is way better than having them trapped in their seats for 4 hrs. On every trip the train was at least 70% full so I fail to understand why folks think this is not a neccesity. There are always cabs waiting in front of union station and overnight parking at the Ann Arbor station is free. It is a shame our Senators and Congressmen failed to get adequate funding for improvements but still it is a great way to travel. Get out of your one passenger SUV's and Minivans sometimes.....yeah right, who am I kidding after all this is Metro Detroit right? It is gasoline powered transportation or bust!!!


Fri, Jan 29, 2010 : 9:43 a.m.

Aren't these funds separate from the funds SEMCOG is using to create a commuter line that will run from A2 to Metro Airport, with stops in Ypsi, etc., using the Amtrak and Canadian Rail existing lines? Isn't that plan still in the works?


Fri, Jan 29, 2010 : 9:22 a.m.

what an absolute waste of taxpayer money. What percentage of folks ride a train even one time a year. Bet it is less than 5%. Take that money and put it into repairing roads and bridges.


Fri, Jan 29, 2010 : 8:39 a.m.

This is a good start, but more is needed. A high-speed rail line connecting A2 and Chi with arteries running into Canada would be real progress. But like anything else that the current admisitration will work on, it will be met with obstructionists from one side of the room that see no progress as good politics for them, not caring that the American people are left in the dust. Sickening. Well at least with the recent supreme court decision on campaign finance Amtrak can pay off some righties and maybe get more done. Until then keep whining about cabs not waiting for you IN CHICAGO (where they are rarely seen) and how you had to sit by a woading door :( :(

Bruce Amrine

Fri, Jan 29, 2010 : 7:49 a.m.

Glad to see the funding for Amtrak. We need it badly. It's hard to see why the station work is costing $40 million, however. I'd like to see checked baggage service restored on the Wolverine. It can be a challenge schlepping your luggage onto the train. We took Amtrak to Portland OR over the Christmas holiday and it was a delightful trip, with on-time arrival. Much more fun than flying. We actually get to see the country.


Fri, Jan 29, 2010 : 12:30 a.m.

Instead of putting a station in Dearborn, why not have the line go to DTW airport? THAT would definitely mean a good amount of ridership to/from the airport, and fewer problems with parking out there.


Thu, Jan 28, 2010 : 10:14 p.m.

As I am reading this from the Greyhound terminal, in Toronto, waiting to get on the bus for 10 hours to get to A2 to visit my partner working there, all I can think is..why stop there. Why just have the line start in Detroit. The Canadian govt. is also planning a high speed rail...BUT Via rail and Amtrak should connect! Right now there is no direct way to get to Ann Arbor from Canada..except by bus that takes twice as long as driving. There are 3 million people here in Toronto that are waiting to be told though advertising that Detroit and Ann Arbor are a great destination to check out, on their own, or on the way to Chicago. It is very frustrating..start thinking more globally. The only downside is We love muffins up with more Canadians visiting the line at Afternoon Delight will be crazy!! :) Oh will 10 more hours and I will have mine.


Thu, Jan 28, 2010 : 10 p.m.

The last time I took the train to Chicago.... We were one hour and fourty mins late. We had a cab booked, that did not wait. And on our back it was snowing, they placed us by a loading door because there were three of us. Need better weather protection from the weather. Then when we arrived in Ann Arbor the stairs were slippery with snow.... I almost fell on the steps with my luggage in hand... Thank You Amtrak!!!!!!!!1


Thu, Jan 28, 2010 : 8:33 p.m.

Good grief people. I ride that train, and it's always quite full.


Thu, Jan 28, 2010 : 8:30 p.m.

Track improvements between A2 and Chicago are highly desirable, but we don't really need a high speed train. If trains could go as fast as they did 75 years ago, that would be fast enough. It makes sense that the high speed dollars should go to California and Florida for the tourism biz. So, improve the track here, concentrate on improving the ride and providing an alternative to air travel between Detroit and Chicago, and a little later we can spread the rail lines to Grand Rapids, Traverse City, and the rest of Michigan. The jobs will come with the expansion.

scooter dog

Thu, Jan 28, 2010 : 8:21 p.m.

Just another waste of tax payer money.People won't/don't ride trains.They drive their cars,always have always will.DUMB,DUMB,DUMB


Thu, Jan 28, 2010 : 5:57 p.m.

Top Cat, you are right, but it is waste of money wherever it goes.


Thu, Jan 28, 2010 : 5:28 p.m.

This is great news for Ann Arbor. Perhaps a small step, but any improvement to the AMTRAK Wolverine Line is a welcome improvement for conectivity from Ann Arbor to Chicago, Dearborn, Detroit, Royal Oak, Birmingham/Troy and Pontiac.

Val Losse

Thu, Jan 28, 2010 : 4:25 p.m.

We cannot afford this TOY. It is a toy that only a few people use which we the tax payer will have to continue to kick in millions to support. Why are the tracks between here and Chicago in bad shape because there isn't enough income to pay for the upkeep of the tracks. I can drive to Chicago faster then the train and be in the place I want to be without paying to go from the train station to my destination. The passenger train is a toy for the few with the many pay millions to keep it running. Even in Europe the trains are supported by tax dollars and only grants keep companies researching ever faster trains. I would rather keep the money in my pocket and spend it on the economy and make the rail lines into parks that maybe in the far, far future in a far away galaxy they can build this dream.


Thu, Jan 28, 2010 : 3:47 p.m.

Last time I took Amtrak to Chicago, I came home in a car. It took as longer on the train, and the tracks were in such bad shape I couldn't read a book. I think a station in Dearborn along with runs from Ann Arbor to Detroit would be great for all the people commuting from the Ann Arbor area to Ford and GM HQ.

Macabre Sunset

Thu, Jan 28, 2010 : 3:21 p.m.

Just goes to show you how worthless Detroit has become since all the jobs left. Our bleeping president comes from Chicago, and he'll only pay token attention to a line better connecting it to Detroit. There's nothing in Detroit to connect.


Thu, Jan 28, 2010 : 2:48 p.m.

what..40 million to renovate 2 stations and build 1 new station......they must be some kind of stations??

Top Cat

Thu, Jan 28, 2010 : 2:47 p.m.

Look at the big winners and again you can see that Michigan's Senators and Congressman are "asleep at the switch".