Today’s Dearborn public forum will explore future of Michigan’s passenger rail

Today’s Dearborn public forum will explore future of Michigan’s passenger rail

http://www.examiner.com/city-buzz-in-detroit/today-s-dearborn-public-forum-will-explore-future-of-michigan-s-passenger-rail

  • September 15th, 2010 2:10 am ET
From the Examiner.com

The Sept. 15 Michigan By Rail Public Forum at the University of Michigan-Dearborn will discuss the future of the state’s rail system.

The 6-8 p.m. forum in Dining Room B of Fairlane Center South, 19000 Hubbard Drive, will present an overview of the existing system, a session of interactive rail mapping, discussion of financial issues, and a “big-picture” vision of the state’s railroad system’s future. The session is one of 16 being held throughout the state to engage citizens on this vision of freight and passenger rail’s future in the state, and forwarding their ideas to state and federal officials.

Residents are welcome to voice their opinions on how to make rail service in the state more efficient and convenient. Dearborn Mayor John B. O’Reilly and other elected officials plan to join the citizens in that discussion.

There are a number of special events by train coming up this fall, O’Reilly told the City Council at the mayoral briefing setting up the agenda for the council’s regular meeting Sept. 7. The state is also applying for another round of high-speed rail money, he said.

“And one of the things for the rail money, this will be the best thing that ever happened to us,” O’Reilly said at the council briefing. “They’ve put in for federal money for the state to buy the Kalamazoo-to-Dearborn line, so it will be state-owned.”

O’Reilly believes that closing that sale will be beneficial to Dearborn, because the freight operator that currently owns the line has no interest in upgrading the rail so it can carry traffic at any speed higher than 39 mph.

“Because their (own) trains are never going to go faster than 39 mph, they won’t put a nickel into anything faster,” O’Reilly said. “They don’t mind you going faster, they just aren’t going to put any money into it.”

The line between Kalamazoo and the Indiana border has been running at 79 mph, O’Reilly said, and state officials feel the speed can be increased to 100 mph. The first grant already given to the rail line, he said, was spent on clearing out all the bottlenecks on the line into Indiana and Illinois and on through to Chicago.

There are projects in process right now to increase the speed of passenger traffic, according to the mayor, and to eliminate conflicts with rail from the Michigan border to Chicago.

“It looks like pieces for high-speed rail from Detroit to Chicago are coming into line, where we can have a 100-110 mile per hour rail–if the state can get control of the rail from Kalamazoo to Dearborn, and then get grants to upgrade that to a higher-speed rail,” O’Reilly said. “I think if you get up to 79 mph, it’d be hugh.”

The forum is sponsored by Michigan by Rail, Michigan Environmental Council, Michigan Association of Railroad Passengers, Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, United Transportation Union, Dearborn Economic and Community Development Department, Dearborn Heights Chamber of Commerce, and American Arab Chamber of Commerce. For more details on this Facebook event (http://bit.ly/MIbyRailJXN), see www.MichiganByRail.org, or contact Tim Fishcer of the Michigan Environmental Council at (517) 487-9539 or tim@environmentalcouncil.org.

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