February 15, 2010
A couple of weeks ago, President Obama announced funding for the High Speed Rail (HSR) portion of the $862 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). The stimulus package, as approved last year by Congress, included over $8 billion earmarked for major high-speed rail projects on the existing HSR Corridors in the U.S. – over $8 billion dollars! Michigan applied for over $800 million in projects on the Pontiac-Chicago route – a recognized HSR corridor – as part of a joint effort by Michigan, Illinois, Missouri, Ohio, Indiana, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Minnesota. The projects that were submitted for funding would continue building on the previous high-speed rail efforts of MDOT, but would have other benefits as well. The projects would also help implement the Detroit Intermodal Freight Terminal project in southwest Detroit, increase the efficiency of the existing freight network, eliminate a significant number of bottlenecks between freight and commuter trains allowing the existing Amtrak trains to run faster, and provide additional capacity to allow additional passenger trains to ride on the tracks unimpeded by freight trains. In other words, this was a perfect place to invest a relatively small amount of money and get a huge return on investment. So – how did we do?
Well – not so good! Michigan received $40 million out of a pot of $8 billion – or half of one percent (0.5%)! That is not good enough – not even close! California received the biggest award at $2.25 billion; Florida received $1.25 billion for the Tampa-to-Orlando corridor; Illinois got $1.1 billion for the Chicago-to-St. Louis corridor; Wisconsin received $810 million for the Madison-Milwaukee corridor; and Ohio received $400 million for the Cleveland-Cincinnati corridor. Michigan received $40 million as part of a larger $244 million award for the Pontiac-Chicago route.
We are grateful for the $40 million, for sure. That money is for a new Amtrak station in Dearborn adjacent to The Henry Ford, and the renovation of train stations in Troy and Battle Creek. All are worthy projects – but where are the rest? MDOT worked very hard to put together great applications – the Governor spoke to the President – she even signed a letter with a number of other governors noting that Michigan had great projects and we still got the shaft! Has the Obama administration written Michigan off? We have asked for answers and I hope we get them soon. There is much more HSR money to come if we are to believe the administration – and we need to know what the magic words are in order to get our fair share.
Stay tuned – this isn’t over yet!