ROYAL OAK (WWJ) – The train trip from Metro Detroit to Chicago would be reduced by almost an hour with proposed track improvements funded through a federal grant. U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood officially announced the grant, Monday afternoon. It’s part of a bigger grant to fund similar projects throughout the country.
Boarding the Amtrak train at the Royal Oak platform, Monday morning, WWJ’s Ron Dewey asked passengers what they think of the plan.
“That would be awesome. It’s a long trip,” said Rachael Dudek of Rochester Hills. “You factor in time getting to and from the station and being early… Yeah, taking an hour off is a big deal,” she said.
Ken Dudek said he’d like to see some other routes considered. “I commute back and forth from Detroit to Columbus and it would be awful nice if I could do it some way other than my car.”
Jen Bessum of Farmington Hills isn’t so sure it’s a good deal. “It’s faster. But at $200 million, is worth that cost?”
Rep. Tom McMillin, is wondering the same.
“If President Obama and Congress insist on piling more debt on our kids and grandkids, they should at least let us decide how to spend it. We need to fill potholes and improve roads, not shave 50 minutes off a train ride from Detroit to Chicago,” said McMillin.
McMillin is the recent sponsor of a House Resolution asking Congress to allow Michigan to keep its federal gas tax money, so it can decide how to spend it.
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood officially announced the grant, Monday afternoon. It’s part of a bigger grant to fund similar projects throughout the country.
Megan Owens, executive director of Transportation Riders United says policy and transportation planners have ranked the Detroit-to-Chicago corridor as one of the most viable routes in the nation.
“Because of Michigan’s existing infrastructure, we can do high-speed rail faster and more cost-effectively than most other states. It just makes sense,” Owens said.
“The bottom line is it’s jobs,” said Senator Debbie Stabenow.
“Because it’s not only strengthening, doing a lot of construction work along the rail but also other infrastructure developments at the Ann Arbor station. We’ll see significant work being done, and that’s jobs as well,” Stabenow said.
Local transportation advocates are responding enthusiastically.
“This is great news for Michigan,” said CeCe Grant, Michigan organizer for Transportation for America.
“The Michigan Department of Transportation worked hard to make sure that our application was competitive with the rest of the country. Today, we have shown that we have what it takes to compete and build a 21st century transportation system.”
Rep. Hansen Clarke is also on board.
“This announcement today is great news for Detroit and all of Michigan,” said Congressman Clarke said in a statement.
“This investment will cut travel time by 30 minutes out of Detroit, and it is just the start. Let’s invest in Michigan’s prosperity by finishing all of the Detroit to Chicago corridor. I am going to tell Secretary LaHood that we’ll be happy to take the money rejected not just by Florida, but the money that Wisconsin and Ohio said wasn’t needed, and put it to work right here in Michigan. Investing in high-speed rail is another way to boost U.S. manufacturing and use Michigan know-how to get our economy running again. Let’s make it in America – rail cars, train engines, and tracks!”
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