America's Newest High-Speed Rail Service Begins

This past Wednesday, Amtrak debuted the newest high-speed rail service in the country, and the first outside of the northeast corridor. Where you ask? California? Florida? Nope, it's is Kalamazoo, Michigan.
February 19, 2012, 9am PST | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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You want the scoop? First, the sloganeering, courtesy of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, "Now, Michigan and Indiana residents are the first to see the progress we've made on America's 21st century rail system. On Wednesday, Federal Railroad Administrator Joe Szabo joined Michigan DOT and Amtrak officials to ride the train between Chicago and Kalamazoo. And this was no ordinary ride. It marked the beginning of 110 miles-per-hour service between these two cities and the first expansion of regional high-speed rail outside the Northeast Corridor.

Now the messy reality, courtesy of Mark Brown, who reports that the famous Silver Streak train used to travel between Denver and Chicago at top speeds of 112.5 miles per hour -- in 1934! Furthermore, "Surprising to me, though, the 110-mph speeds take only 10 minutes off the one-way trip, officials said. That's because trains on the route were already going as fast as 95 mph before the most recent improvements that involved installing a high-tech train control system."

Hopefully this is just the first step in a decades-long process of expanding rail access and speeds across the country. And, in a bit of good news concerning this specific line, that both sources can agree on, "Within the next three years, Amtrak will expand 110 miles-per-hour service from Kalamazoo to the central and eastern regions of Michigan. Once complete, the modernized service will cut nearly two hours from the Detroit-Chicago run."

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Published on Wednesday, February 15, 2012 in Chicago Sun-Times
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