Michigan-Chicago route gains 110 mph passenger rail, and other Midwest states seem eager to follow

Last week, Amtrak service in western Michigan and northern Indiana reached speeds of 110 miles per hour, marking the first expansion of regional high-speed rail in the U.S. outside of the northeast corridor. The speeds were achieved on an 80-mile stretch of track between Kalamazoo, Michigan and Porter, Indiana. The track serves two Amtrak lines: the Wolverine Service, which connects Chicago and Detroit, and its Blue Water Service, which connects Chicago and Port Huron, Michigan.

This is the first upgrade to the planned Midwest High Speed Rail Initiative, which would radiate out of Chicago and knit together cities in Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Michigan, Ohio, Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, and Wisconsin. Many states seem eager to improved rail service, and most are moving ahead with ambitious plans, even if no funding is on the horizon. A notable exception, and a significant barrier to connecting Minnesota to Chicago, is Wisconsin, which returned $810 million of federal funding targeted for the first stage of an extension of high-speed service from Chicago to the Twin Cities.

Michigan has moved aggressively to improve its rail service, which already has three routes operating multiple trains each day in the southern portion of the state, and is supplemented by bus service to northern Michigan [pdf].

Chicago media is already buzzing about increased speeds to St Louis and Champaign, and Illinois DOT has created a unique website for the St Louis planned upgrades, which are expected to be completed in 2014. For many years, the northeast corridor was the only area that could boast service over 100 mph, but that appears to be changing.