RECAPTURING TRADITION. Midwestern transportation planners talk up their faster trains.

On some routes through Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota, trains topping out at 110 miles per hour will make better travel times per mile than Amtrak's Acel [c.q.] trains, which reach a maximum speed of 150 m.p.h. over sections of the Northeast.

When the nine-state Midwest network is completed, the service will produce average speeds and travel times that rival or exceed the electrified Acela trains, said Frank Busalacchi, secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Transportation.

There's nothing new in that. There's also nothing wrong with doing things that way. The value of a corridor service is in serving intermediate stations as well as big-city endpoints. But additional stops call for deceleration, and thus limits on acceleration. On the other hand, it's easier to lop a few minutes off a schedule by raising speeds from 45 to 85: to lop exactly as many minutes off in the next increment involves a speedup to 155, with all the expenses involved therein.

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