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Upgrades for high speed trains would curb pollution, boost economy

MEC lauds MDOT assessment of Detroit-Chicago route improvements
Oct 20, 2009
Proposed improvements that would help pave the way for high-speed train service between Detroit and Chicago could be an economic boost to Michigan’s cities while reducing pollution and traffic congestion, according to an analysis of the plan’s environmental assessment conducted by the Michigan Environmental Council (MEC).

In comments submitted to the Michigan Department of Transportation today, MEC concludes that the agency “got it right” in proposing improvements that will provide an enhanced alternative to air and automobile travel. Today is the final day for comments on the environmental assessment.

The improvements are part of the existing Midwest Regional Rail Initiative (MWRRI), referenced in the Service EA, and would be funded substantially by American Recovery and Relief Act (ARRA) high speed rail money. They include upgraded rail hardware, station rehabilitation, and improved amenities for passengers that could include wireless internet access and “bikes on board” capability for cyclists.

“MDOT has outlined realistic improvements to this route that put Michigan in a good position to capture significant ARRA funds and make our trains run faster with more frequency and reliability,” said Tim Fischer, MEC’s deputy policy director.

The rail plan would take cars off the road and reduce air miles traveled, resulting in decreased air pollution from vehicles and less congested highways. Additionally, the route would bring economic activity to small towns and cities that host train stations, providing boosts to local economies.

Fischer said conveniences like wireless internet access and capacity to store bicycles on board trains could be significant catalysts in making train transit a mainstream option for commuters and travelers.

Wireless internet “is an amenity that is viewed by passengers as an expectation, not a luxury,” MEC’s comments read, noting that Amtrak currently does not offer the service.

The environmental assessment of the proposed rail improvements is available at: http://www.michigan.gov/documents/mdot/MDOT_ServiceNepaEA_295227_7.pdf ###
Contact
Tim Fischer: 734-255-9206
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