Public transportation connecting populated cities in Michigan and other areas of the Midwest is fairly limited. Trains are slow and expensive and bus routes between cities are inadequate. But a $160-million federal grant to the state will change transportation in Michigan by providing the funds to create a new, high-speed rail line between Kalamazoo and Dearborn. Other plans to create lines between Ann Arbor and Detroit and from Detroit to Chicago are already underway. But these projects individually are only bits and pieces of the kind of rail system Michigan needs. Organizations creating high-speed lines should work together to give the Midwest a comprehensive, fast and affordable public transportation system.

According to an Oct. 26 Detroit Free Press article, the state of Michigan received over $160 million to fund the construction of high-speed rail lines in Michigan. Of this, $150 million is to be used to establish the route between Kalamazoo and Dearborn. The money, awarded under the federal Department of Transportation’s High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail Grant Program, will fund the restoration and completion of a 135-mile track passing through Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, Jackson, Albion and Battle Creek, according to an Oct. 25 article on Annarbor.com. According to the Free Press article, the restored rail lines would allow trains to travel at speeds up to 79 miles per hour. Later upgrades could allow trains to travel at speeds of up to 110 miles per hour.

Currently, train rides are often too expensive and slow to offer much appeal to potential passengers, even though they are more environmentally friendly than the use of low-occupancy vehicles. Michigan’s current mass transportation systems aren’t wide-spread enough to cut back on the carbon footprint.

High-speed rails are meant to provide service faster than a car at a reasonable price. For Michigan’s high-speed rail to be a success, the state must work quickly to increase speeds over 79 miles per hour. Travelers will be inclined to stick with the comfort of their own vehicle if trains are going only slightly over the state’s highway speed limit (typically 70 miles per hour). Rail lines that significantly decrease travel time will appeal to riders.

The rail line will also be good for the economy. Jobs will be created in construction, maintenance and operation of the lines. And easier connectivity between cities also makes business expansion and cooperation easier, which will facilitate the state’s economic growth. Current plans are underway for a line between Ann Arbor and Detroit and another between Detroit and Chicago. But alone, none of these railways can offer passengers the connectivity that would lead to real economic growth. The state should use the planned line between Kalamazoo and Dearborn to start a more inter-connected rail system that spans the Midwest.

If high-speed rail lines offer multiple destinations at a reasonable price, people will be more inclined to choose environmentally-friendly public transportation that will create jobs and encourage economic growth. The Michigan Department of Transportation must start plans to expand and connect high-speed rail lines to offer Michigan residents a wide range of destinations.

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