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MDOT seeks to improve both passenger and freight rail lines with purchase of Norfolk Southern Railway track

Contact: Jeff Cranson, MDOT Director of Communications, 517-335-3084
Agency: Transportation

(Editor's note: See Fast Facts at end of release.)

October 5, 2011 -- The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) today announced an agreement with Norfolk Southern Railway (NSR) to purchase a critical 135-mile segment of railroad track between Kalamazoo and Dearborn. The track is part of Amtrak's Wolverine passenger rail service and also provides freight services to major Michigan companies, including Ford Motor Co. The $140 million purchase was made using Federal Railroad Administration grant funds, which includes an affordable state match.

The purchase will enable MDOT to stabilize and upgrade the track for both passenger and rail freight services. NSR will retain an exclusive freight easement to preserve and grow its freight business.

"Investing in rail service will spark economic development in communities along a corridor linking Detroit and Chicago, two vital Midwest cities," said Gov. Rick Snyder. "A faster, reliable passenger rail system is a priority for younger generations and vital to Michigan's ability to compete globally as businesses look to locate or expand. The rail improvements will also hasten the transport of freight, a priority for Ford Motor Company and other Michigan businesses along the route."

MDOT ownership of the Kalamazoo-Dearborn segment, combined with Amtrak ownership between Kalamazoo-Porter, Ind., will ensure that nearly 80 percent of the Chicago-Detroit/Pontiac Accelerated Rail Corridor will be in passenger-friendly ownership, giving greater control over the services.

"This important rail infrastructure upgrade will lead to long-term economic benefits for Michigan," said State Transportation Director Kirk T. Steudle. "We plan to work with Norfolk Southern and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation to grow the freight business along this corridor, while supporting intercity passenger rail travel, which has shown remarkable growth in Michigan in the past several years."

"Norfolk Southern is pleased to support Governor Snyder and Secretary LaHood in this important transportation infrastructure improvement project," said CEO Wick Moorman. "Ensuring capacity for freight operations while improving service for passengers will help the Detroit to Kalamazoo rail line reach its highest, best use. Norfolk Southern will continue to serve freight customers on the line."

MDOT has been working in cooperation with the FRA and Amtrak in planning for implementation of 110 mph passenger service over this route. The FRA had selected for award approximately $350 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funding and High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail Program funding to MDOT for the acquisition and upgrade of the line.

In addition to the purchase and upgrades, MDOT agreed to build a double track on the busiest freight segment of the line east of Ypsilanti to ensure adequate capacity for both freight and passenger operations. The new track will benefit the production operations of Ford Motor Co., among others.

"We believe this investment in intercity passenger rail will reduce travel times, improve service reliability and allow for future increases in services, which will increase ridership and revenue," said Timothy Hoeffner, administrator, MDOT Office of Rail. "It will set the stage for additional passenger rail service after the completion of the accelerated rail project. And, because NSR retains the freight business, Michigan has a nationally recognized Class 1 operator willing to grow and enhance freight business, which is critical to Michigan's economic growth."

FAST FACTS:

- Record 480,000 passengers on the Wolverine in FY 2010, with FY 2011 ridership exceeding those numbers by 13 percent (one month left to report.)
- Improvements will allow speeds up to 110 mph on nearly 80 percent of the route between Detroit and Chicago, resulting in a 30-minute reduction in travel time, improved reliability and on-time performance.
- $140 million purchase price, using FRA High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail Program grant funds, which includes a state match.

MDOT: Working with our partners at airports, bus systems, marine and rail to find innovative solutions for Michigan's transportation systems.

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