All across the country, I meet Americans who understand the importance of investing in essential transportation projects like high-speed passenger rail and are excited by the possibilities and opportunities it offers. 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.
This increase in speed will cut 10 to 20 minutes from travel times along this segment of the line alone. And that's just the beginning. 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.
Amtrak train passes through Galien, MI, at 110-mph; photo courtesy MDOT
And we can do the same throughout the Midwest Corridor, from Minnesota's Twin Cities to Chicago and on to Detroit and St. Louis. In fact, this one corridor will connect 20 percent of Americans to high-speed rail.
Less time spent traveling means more time that folks can spend with their friends and families. And when you add the convenience of downtown-to-downtown service and the ability to work and use electronic devices throughout your journey, passenger rail promises a truly attractive transportation option.
But high-speed rail isn’t just making trips faster and easier than ever before, it’s also creating jobs and spurring economic development.
Deputy Transportation Secretary John Porcari and Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph Szabo
at the MEP forum in Chicago; photo courtesy jacirose13
President Obama's high-speed rail program is a critical part of his vision for modernizing America’s transportation network. And the President’s budget provides $2.5 billion for the first year of a six-year, $47 billion rail investment plan that will allow our work on this important program to continue.
This investment will help the Federal Railroad Administration continue to work with states as they plan and develop high-speed and intercity passenger rail corridors across the country. It will also place high-speed rail on equal footing with other important transportation programs, revitalize domestic rail manufacturing, and ensure that the nation can reach President Obama’s goal of providing 80 percent of Americans access to high-speed rail within 25 years.
Put simply, it will create new choices for travelers while creating needed jobs and economic growth.
The people living in and around Detroit, Chicago and Kalamazoo are excited to see true 21st-century passenger rail service coming their way in the very near future. The terrific professionals at the Federal Railroad Administration and Amtrak are excited to be a part of it, with work already underway on eight different projects.
And me? Well, I’m excited to see the positive transformation that high-speed rail will create across the nation for generations to come.