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Could passenger train service between Detroit and Toronto reopen?

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Amtrak has requested federal funds for the line

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There hasn’t been passenger rail connecting Detroit and Toronto since the late 1960s. Amtrak wants that to change.

In its annual report submitted to Congress that includes grant requests for 2020, the rail operator included a line item labeled “Restoration of the Detroit-Toronto Service.”

The funding required? “TBD.”

The FAST Act passed by Congress in 2015 allocated $1.8 billion for Amtrak through 2020. In the report, the reopening of the Detroit-Toronto service appeared in the “augmented” funding items. Amtrak will submit a more detailed reauthorization proposal, presumably with a price tag for the line, later this year.

Does that seem like wishful thinking? Maybe. But there are only 13 other items requiring funding above its current level and the line is clearly something Amtrak prioritizes.

“Amtrak is exploring places it can modernize and expand its services and network,” said Amtrak Spokesman Marc Magliari by email. “A Chicago/Western Michigan–Detroit–Toronto corridor is one of the services where we see promise.”

MDOT has also expressed interest in restoring the line.

It’s unclear exactly what infrastructure improvements would have to be made. The Windsor station aligns with Michigan Central Station, but the Canadian one was destroyed by a fire in the 1990s. Michigan Central Station is will soon be redeveloped by Ford as part of an “evolving mobility corridor.” (Which could include trains if you read between the lines.)

The only nearby joint international gateway between Amtrak and VIA, the Canadian passenger rail service, is through Buffalo. For those wishing to go from Detroit to Toronto using public transit, the best option is to take the Detroit-Windsor tunnel bus from downtown, and then a VIA train to Toronto.