Michigan tests cars for future commuter service

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DETROIT – The Michigan Department of Transportation and Southeast Michigan Council of Governments is testing its fleet of bi-level commuter cars this week in anticipation of future rail commuter service in the state. Test trains are operating between Pontiac and Jackson, Mich., Nov. 12-14. The cars, owned by the Great Lakes Central Railroad, are former Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railway equipment.

The agencies are planning new rail commuter service between Detroit and Ann Arbor. Service to special events is expected to begin in early 2013, including the Detroit Tigers opening day and local festivals. Regular commuter service is expected to begin in 2014, pending the completion of necessary track upgrades. The remainder of the test route, Ann Arbor to Jackson and Detroit to Pontiac, is not under consideration for commuter service at this time, but the tests will allow for future expansion on those segments.

The state recently purchased a portion of the commuter route, from Dearborn to Ann Arbor, from Norfolk Southern Railroad. The remainder of the commuter route between Dearborn and Detroit is still owned by Norfolk Southern while the Detroit to Pontiac segment is owned by Canadian National.

Amtrak operated an Ann Arbor to Detroit commuter train, known as the Michigan Executive, until 1988. The Southeast Michigan Transportation Authority also operated Pontiac to Detroit commuter service until 1983.

Michigan is also studying a second commuter route, between Ann Arbor and Howell, on the former Ann Arbor Railroad route.
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