At this point, MDOT is not looking at double-tracking all of the Wolverine route. Roughly 160 miles of track on this route would not be double-tracked, said Rick Harnish, executive director of Midwest High Speed Rail Association.Even so, the expanded schedules envision only modest improvements in travel times.
The two rail associations are asking Michigan Department of Transportation to include double-tracking in its plans for upgrades aimed at reducing travel times, boosting reliability, and adding daily roundtrips to the schedule.
Full build-out refers to the goal of having 10 daily roundtrips between Chicago and Detroit (of the 10, seven would go to Pontiac — a Detroit suburb), with trains traveling at an average speed of 58 miles per hour, and with travel time between Chicago and Pontiac at five hours and 16 minutes.Back of the envelope calculation: whatever advantage the faster track between Kalamazoo and Ann Arbor or Dearborn confers will be dissipated on Conrail Shared Assets and the old Grand Trunk Western through Detroit and the northern suburbs. Which is unfortunate, as there's a lot of potential for Pontiac to Ann Arbor or Royal Oak to Kalamazoo traffic, and the college trade I'm overlooking, for which short-haul passengers might choose to drive or hitch a ride.
Currently, there are three daily roundtrips of trains traveling at an average speed of about 46 miles per hour, with travel time between Chicago and Pontiac at approximately six hours and 40 minutes.
And the difficulties the current service encounters with out of course running are the consequences of business decisions years ago.
[MDOT spokesman Michael] Frezell said efficiencies in the use of in-locomotive train signaling, GPS, and other technological improvements can help coordinate trains, thereby reducing the need for continuous double track.That's true, although contemporary construction standards might require installation of entirely new bridges and wider trackbeds. All the same, it's encouraging to read about improvements to the Passenger Rail network.
“MDOT is being fiscally responsible by not double-tracking the entire railroad now,” Frezell added. “If conditions change in the future there is always the opportunity to expand capacity in the existing right of way because the railroad was once double-tracked and the rail bed remains.”