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Roadside explores the back road and Main Streets of America. Our recipe for an American renaissance: Eat in diners, ride trains, shop on Main Street, put a porch on your house, live in a walkable community.

Roadside Wire

Sometimes not-so-high-speed is plenty fast enough

Despite my preference for train travel, you cannot count me as a huge fan of President Obama's high speed rail initiative — at least the one that promises 150 mile per hour maglev-like trains that will take a generation to build and cost billions of dollars. I find myself more in line with what James Howard Kunstler advocates, which would simply resurrect, restore, and upgrade existing infrastructure to bring more trains to more places. Railroad mileage peaked in this country at just over 254,000 miles in 1912, with much of it carrying passengers. In 1950, we still had nearly 150,000 miles of track that carried passengers. In contrast, at the birth of Amtrak in 1971, the United States passenger rail system extended a mere 21,000 miles. In light of this, I see Amtrak's modest improves such as this on in Michigan as real progress.

Amtrak marks 110-mph service to Michigan, plans more high-speed improvements

Yesterday, an Amtrak train tested a recently federally approved maximum speed of 110 mph along a route from Chicago through Indiana to Kalamazoo, Mich., and back, marking the first expansion of high-speed rail outside of the Northeast Corridor.

Federal approval of higher speeds along the route was announced last week. The speed is the highest allowed by Amtrak trains west of Pennsylvania and New York, Amtrak officials said in a prepared statement.

The test "sets the stage for expansion of accelerated service from Kalamazoo to Dearborn by 2015, helping us meet the demands of the next generation of travelers," said Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) Director Kirk Steudle, who noted the state is in the late stages of completing the purchase of the track segment from Norfolk Southern Railway. Joining Steudle on the train were local, state, Amtrak and federal officials, including Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph Szabo.

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