Dec 12, 2023 - News

Detroit's passenger rail future just got brighter

An Amtrak train in 2022. Photo: Luke Sharrett/AFP via Getty Images

New train routes that would connect Detroit to Canada and Cleveland are moving closer to reality.

Driving the news: The Federal Railroad Administration last week awarded grants to study expanded Amtrak service to cities across the U.S., including Detroit.

  • The grants are part of the $8.2 billion in new funding for high-speed rail and other projects nationwide, the largest federal investment in passenger trains in decades.

Why it matters: The goal is more accessible and affordable transportation options connecting cities throughout the country.

  • Infrastructure upgrades — such as more tracks to avoid congestion with freight trains — will be considered.

Zoom in: The investment covers four $500,000 planning grants to explore new and improved service in the Midwest, including:

  • A new route connecting Pontiac to Cleveland, with possible stops in Troy, Detroit and at DTW, Crain's reports.
  • Extending the Wolverine line — Amtrak's rail connection from Chicago — beyond Detroit to Windsor and Toronto. Additional trains on the Wolverine's daily schedule also will be studied.
  • Improving the frequency and reliability of trains traveling from Chicago to Port Huron and Grand Rapids.

What they're saying: "This investment will improve the reliability of our passenger trains so that people can count on more convenient schedules and trains that run on time," Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) said in a statement.

Reality check: The planning could take years, and there's no guarantee the expanded service will actually happen.

  • The grants are "a very good start" to initiating these improvements, MDOT spokesperson Michael Frezell tells Axios, adding there isn't a definitive timeline for completing the studies.

Between the lines: MDOT received grants to study better routes from Chicago to Detroit, Port Huron and Grand Rapids.

  • The proposed Detroit-Cleveland connection was among four Ohio routes that were selected as railroad expansion priorities, Axios Cleveland reports.
  • MDOT and the Ohio Rail Development Commission will work together to develop a cost estimate and other details, per Crain's.

Go deeper: High-speed rail gets a multibillion-dollar White House boost

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