M-1 Rail releases specifics on Detroit streetcar construction

July 17, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: News 

From Progressive Railroading:

Here's an artist's rendition of the proposed streetcar line on Woodward Avenue in Detroit. (From M-! Rail.)

Here’s an artist’s rendition of the proposed streetcar line on Woodward Avenue in Detroit.
(From M-! Rail.)

M-1 Rail officials yesterday unveiled details of their construction plans for the Detroit streetcar project, which is set to begin on July 28.

Construction activities, poised to start between Adams Street and Campus Martius, will include the closure of Woodward Avenue for the next 120 days, officials said in a press release. Work will include concrete removal, drainage and track installation, repaving and utility relocation.

“Our goal is to ensure construction activities are completed safely and expeditiously with as little disruption as possible to businesses, residents and visitors,” said M-1 Rail Chief Operating Officer Paul Childs.

M-1 Rail external relations team members will distribute “Streetcar Construction Overview” during regular project update meetings with business and community members. Additional information is available on the streetcar website.

Expected to be completed in 2016, the streetcar will travel north-south on both sides of Woodward Avenue for 3.3 miles between Larned Street and West Grand Boulevard.

Source: http://www.progressiverailroading.com/passenger_rail/news/M1-Rail-releases-specifics-on-Detroit-streetcar-construction–41100

Latest delay bogs Grand Rapids’ new Amtrak station’s opening

July 17, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
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From The Grand Rapids Press:

-bafbf27417892a3cThe city’s largely completed Amtrak station named after a former West Michigan congressman now isn’t expected to open for passengers until early fall.

Officials blame an underground sewer line below Buchanan Avenue SW for the latest holdup. The Vernon J. Ehlers Amtrak Station already has suffered more than a year of delays since its ceremonial groundbreaking in 2011, and this most recent setback pushes the station’s opening to the end of September, officials say.

The station originally was to open in 2013, then spring or summer 2014.

Rapid spokeswoman Jennifer Kalczuk explained the sewer line running underneath the street and existing railroad has to be relocated before CSX Corp. can connect its tracks to the station.

“(CSX) can’t finish their portion until the sewer is moved,” Kalczuk said.

It appears, though, city officials knew about a problem with this line in mid-2012. An analysis of the sewer determined the system would not be strong enough to withstand the weight of a new rail spur atop it, and the city shored up funding for a sewer improvement and street reconstruction project on Buchanan and its immediate area.

Brandy Moeller, a manager with the Grand Rapids City Engineer’s office, said all associated costs of the project are not to exceed $826,000. After “administrative delays,” the project finally is set to begin in mid-August and end no more than six weeks later — two years after it was approved by city commissioners.

Discussions between the Michigan Department of Transportation and CSX Corp. involving track switching and signaling eventually were resolved in May 2013, with construction of the passenger terminal beginning the following month.

“As I understand it, we are doing our work in coordination with Amtrak’s completion items from (its construction) contract,” Moeller said.

Kalczuk said the station’s project cost remains at about $5.2 million but The Rapid can spend up to $5.8 million, according to guidelines set by the Interurban Transit Partnership, which owns The Rapid.

Amtrak’s Pere Marquette route currently serves passengers to and from Grand Rapids and Chicago, with three stops, once a day. The new station could allow an additional daily trip between the two cities upon completion.

West Michigan leaders recently expressed optimism that, one day, a train could run between Holland and Detroit.

Source: http://www.mlive.com/news/grand-rapids/index.ssf/2014/07/all_aboard_latest_delay_bogs_g.html#incart_m-rpt-2

July 2014 edition of On Track

July 8, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Newsletter 

Click here to save this file or to view it as a PDF in full screen.

We hope you enjoy the issue and that you will let us hear your comments and suggestions. If you would like to write a story or suggest an item to be covered, email us at marprail@yahoo.com

For those without a PDF reader, click on the images below to view them full screen.

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July 19, 2014 MARP meeting in Traverse City includes a special announcement

July 6, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Announcements, Meetings 

Sat., July 19, 2014
10:a.m. – 1 p.m.

Traverse Area District Library
610 Woodmere Avenue
Traverse City MI 49686

Map & Directions

This joint meeting with the Michigan Land Use Institute will feature a roll-out of “Getting Back on Track: Uncovering the Potential for Trains in Traverse City”, a report analyzing the potential for restarting rail travel along an 11-mile stretch of track between Traverse City and Acme/Williamsburg. The report was authored by James Bruckbauer, MLUI transportation specialist, with the generous support of The National Association of Realtors and other local sponsors.

MARP will hold a brief business meeting starting promptly at 10:00 a.m.  James will give a formal presentation of his report “Getting Back on Track” at 11:00 a.m. Following the presentation, we will have the opportunity for further discussion over lunch (no host) at The Filling Station Microbrewery which occupies the former Pere Marquette Depot, 642 Railroad Place, just a few steps north of the Library.

We hope you have made plans to bring the family/friends and make a weekend of it. If you have not already reserved your lodging, you may have to look for something in the Cadillac area or another location along the way.

Our friends at MLUI have sent these suggestions:
The Park Place is the historic downtown hotel
Sleep Inn and Suites in Acme is very supportive of the rail project
Boarders Inn and Suites
Econo Lodge is modestly priced, but entirely acceptable

If you are into camping, you might enjoy spending an evening at the Dulcimer Funfest on the Osceola County Fairgrounds in Evart MI on July 17-20. The annual festival is sponsored by the Original Dulcimer Players Club, aka O.D.P.C., which bills itself as the largest and oldest hammered dulcimer club in the world. Visit the Osceola County Fairgrounds website for information about camping on site.

For the railroad historians among us, a “must see” stop as you pass through the Cadillac area, is the After 26 Depot Cafe & Gifts. Housed in the former Ann Arbor Railroad Depot at 127 West Cass Street in Cadillac, the After 26 Project recently celebrated its first anniversary in the refurbished depot. Dedicated to employing adults with developmental disabilities and cognitive impairments, the project has enjoyed huge success in its first year of operation. Live piano music is featured on Friday evenings and for Sunday brunch. Stop by on Friday or Saturday for dinner on your way to or from Traverse City. The cafe is also open for breakfast and lunch seven days a week. Visit the Facebook page for a sampling of the enthusiastic response this project is getting.

M-1 Rail construction to start July 28

July 3, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Uncategorized 

From the Detroit Free Press:

m1constructionmapDowntown business owners and commuters are in for a four-month adjustment to their routines once construction begins late next month on M-1 Rail, the 3.3-mile streetcar line that will stretch from downtown to New Center.

M-1 officials announced that construction will begin on July 28, 2014 and will require the closure of Woodward between Adams Street and Campus Martius for about 120 days. Crews will be reconstructing the roadway and laying rail for the streetcar line.

It will mean detours for commuters who take Woodward north, but will also likely mean less foot traffic along that segment of Woodward, where pop-up shops, party stores, retailers, apartments, lofts, restaurants and bars have gone up in renovated buildings in anticipation of downtown’s rebirth between Campus Martius and Midtown.

Several downtown business operators were keeping the long view in mind Friday, saying that while they know the shutdown will hurt for a bit, what’s more important is the specter of a revived downtown served by streetcars that attract more visitors and business redevelopment.

Stan Nelson, owner of Red Rose Florist at 1425 Woodward, said it’s been a struggle to make a go of it since he opened his shop downtown a decade ago in a storefront on Washington Boulevard. He moved to Woodward five years ago and said he’s looking forward to a wave of growth once the streetcars are running.

“The M-1 Rail can only help,” he said Friday afternoon at the flower shop. “This is an exciting time. But it’s been a struggle. It’s just good to see that things are steadily growing, and we’re glad we had the vision to be a part of it.”

He said the store already does marketing through churches and other organizations to let potential customers know about services there because foot traffic on Woodward isn’t sufficient now to keep the store going. The shop has also focused more on online sales.

Cross streets such as Grand River and Clifford will remain open as much as possible, expect when crews have to build roadway or lay tracks and the like, M-1 organizers said. Sidewalks along Woodward will remain open throughout.

M-1 organizers said detours will follow parallel downtown streets such as Washington Boulevard to the west and John R to the east. Many city and suburban bus detours around the project also will follow Washington, putting the routes a bit closer to the Rosa Parks Transit Center, the downtown bus hub. DDOT already has changed its routes by removing bus stops that once were on Woodward between Adams and Campus Martius.

The $140-million rail line is scheduled to be up and running by late 2016, with 16 curbside stops and four in medians on the route between Congress and West Grand Boulevard in the area anchored by the old General Motors headquarters and the Fisher Building. It’s being funded largely with corporate and philanthropic donations, although the federal government has granted some money to the project.

The work will be the most visible sign of progress yet for a project that backers say will help lay the groundwork for future investment in mass transit in metro Detroit and spur redevelopment along Woodward. The project has been hampered by scheduling delays and, most recently, a $12 million funding shortfall that M-1 says it will not let delay construction.

“Over the next thirty days our team will be pounding the pavement to make everyone who lives, works and visits the Woodward corridor aware of what they should expect from track construction and how to navigate around it once we begin on July 28,” Paul Childs, M-1 Rail’s chief operating officer, said in a statement. “We are moving quickly to provide information and resources to businesses and residents along the corridor. There will be a business support program that we will introduce in the coming weeks along with more details about construction activities and timelines as they are finalized.”

That will include two upcoming public meetings with businesses and others impacted by the construction: July 1 for Midtown companies at the Max M. Fisher Music Theater, 3711 Woodward, 8–9:30 a.m; and for the Central Business District at The Madison, 1555 Broadway , 6–8 p.m. July 2.

At D:Hive, a Woodward storefront that offers a downtown welcome center, resources for visitors and assistance to those looking to start businesses in the city, Jeanette Pierce said she’s hoping that the shutdown will have a side effect of getting people to take note of other parts of downtown they may not see if they stick to Woodward most of the time.

“Sure, it’s going to be inconvenient, but I think that the staff at M-1 has done a great job of reaching out,” said Pierce, D:Hive’s director of community relations, crediting M-1 with working for more than a year to prepare businesses along and near Woodward for the construction project.

Pierce said many businesses along that segment of Woodward are focusing on the long-term positive effect of expanded mass transit making it easier to get around two areas of the city rebounding after decades of disinvestment.

“With any construction project, whether it’s road repair or something like this, it is slightly annoying, but it’s exciting,” she said. “At D:Hive, we’re going to be working on encouraging people to explore the detour and visit businesses. … I think this might actually give people an opportunity to get out of their car and walk a little bit, and when you walk you notice a lot more stuff, and actually fall more in love with the city.”

More information on M-1 and its construction schedule is available at 800-511-3931, M-1 Rail’s Facebook and Twitter accounts and at M-1 Rail’s office at 1426 Woodward, Monday–Friday, 9 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Source: http://www.freep.com/article/20140627/NEWS01/306270105/Detroit-M-1-light-rail-Woodward

Wayne County panel OKs $3 million for M-1 Rail

July 2, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: News 

From the Detroit Free Press:

The M-1 RAIL Streetcars will be ADA compliant, have Wi-Fi and storage space for bicycles. The rendering is an example of what the streetcars could look like in Detroit once the system is operating in 2016. M-1 RAIL officials are checking out streetcars among the manufacturers who submitted proposals. . / M-1 Rail

The M-1 RAIL Streetcars will be ADA compliant, have Wi-Fi and storage space for bicycles. The rendering is an example of what the streetcars could look like in Detroit once the system is operating in 2016. M-1 RAIL officials are checking out streetcars among the manufacturers who submitted proposals. . / M-1 Rail

A committee of Wayne County Commissioners approved $3 million in funding for the M-1 Rail project June 3, as construction of the $160-million project should begin within the next 60 days.

The funding, approved by the committee of the whole on a 10-5 vote and set to go before the full commission this week, will be split into $1.5 million coming during the current fiscal year, and $1.5 million during the 2015 fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1. County officials say the money has been earmarked for improvements to Woodward Avenue, where the rail system will run.

“We want it to be the foundation of a regional system,” said Matt Cullen, M-1 Rail’s CEO and president of Rock Ventures. “It’s going to be transformational.”

Project officials gave a little more insight on the specifics of the project today. The line will run on Woodward from downtown to New Center and will have six cars that will hold up to 100 people per car. During peak times, riders should be waiting only about seven to nine minutes for a car, said Sommer Woods, the director of external relations for M-1 Rail.

Officials expect ridership of about 6,000 daily; riders will be able to connect to DDOT and SMART buses, as well as the People Mover and the Amtrak station, which brings people to the city from throughout the region.

Some commissioners had trouble funding the county’s portion of the cost, saying conversations with constituents about road conditions show there are other more pressing transportation problems those dollars could help alleviate.

“They’re constantly being told there’s no money to fix our roads,” said Commissioner Shannon Price, R-Canton. “At the same time, you’re asking us for $3 million to fix a state road.”

Commissioner Martha Scott, D-Detroit, agreed, and said her district is rife with potholes that have not gotten any attention from county workers.

“I can’t support (funding M-1 Rail) … unless you guys get my roads fixed, too,” she said.

Commissioner Diane Webb, D-Dearborn Heights, said she’s received comments from her constituents about deplorable road conditions, but also sees the benefit of funding the M-1 Rail project.

“I think we have a responsibility to the greater good,” she said, adding that one year she would like to see the county address fixingthe worst roads in the townships, including Redford Township, which she represents. “This is going to be a great project for the region,” she said of the rail project.

Source: http://www.freep.com/article/20140603/NEWS02/306030173/Wayne-County-commissioners-M-1-Rail

3 sites under consideration for new Amtrak train station in Ann Arbor

July 1, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: News 

From The Ann Arbor News:

The list of sites being considered for a new Amtrak train station in Ann Arbor has been narrowed from eight to three.

The three locations awaiting further review now include a stretch of track along North Main Street next to Argo Pond, the existing Amtrak site on Depot Street, and a parking lot on Fuller Road in front of the University of Michigan Hospital.

The sites were ranked based on the level of access they provide to downtown and other major activity centers such as the U-M Hospital and Central Campus, and the potential for connecting with other forms of public transit such as Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority and U-M buses, and Greyhound.

The project team also took into consideration environmental impacts, accessibility from existing roadways, and whether there’s enough land for station facilities.

With those being the key considerations, the Fuller Road site ranked highest with a score of 8 on a scale from -10 to 10.

The Depot Street site had a score of 6, and the North Main site had a score of zero. All other sites had negative scores.

The city has hired consultant URS Corp. for $824,875 to lead the so-called Ann Arbor Station Environmental Review.

Robert Gorski, project manager from URS Corp., said during a public meeting Tuesday night the study is now entering Phase 2, which will include much more detailed analysis of the three sites, as well as conceptual designs. A final recommendation for a specific site, including a conceptual design, is expected by the end of this year.

The project team found that the North Main site is relatively close to downtown, but a station there would require displacement of some local businesses. And while Main Street is a major roadway, the only access to the tracks is Lakeshore Drive, a private road. There has been some talk of redeveloping the North Main corridor.

“There was a lot of discussion about the opportunity to redevelop this area,” Gorski told residents who attended Tuesday night’s meeting.

The existing Amtrak site on Depot Street also is close to downtown and key activity centers, but it might pose challenges in terms of available space, access to key features, and environmental impacts, the project team found.

It has been noted the area is flood-prone and parking is constrained, though the 14-acre former MichCon site next door remains vacant.

The project team found the Fuller Road site near the U-M Hospital is well positioned in the center of the community, but it has potential environmental concerns related to parks and open space impacts since it’s part of Fuller Park. Gorski said there also are some concerns about the topography, but it’s worth looking at it in greater detail.

The City Council voted unanimously in October to proceed with the current phase of work. A little less than $165,000 is coming from funds the city previously budgeted, with the rest covered by a federal rail grant the city accepted in 2012.

The $2.8 million federal rail planning grant also is expected to cover some additional future expenses if the project moves forward.

Final design of a new Amtrak station is identified as a $2.6 million expense in 2015-16 in the city’s Capital Improvement Plan. Construction of the new station is shown as a separate $44.5 million line item that same year.

Mayor John Hieftje has said he expects 80 percent of the funding to come from the federal government with other local partners potentially contributing funds. Ann Arbor residents get to vote on the project before any construction happens.

At the meeting Tuesday night, the city’s consultants talked about train ridership in Ann Arbor, noting there were roughly 155,000 boardings and deboardings at the Ann Arbor station last year, up about 70 percent from 2003.

According to projections shown at the meeting, that could increase to 969,000 by 2035-2040 if the three daily roundtrips are increased to 10 daily roundtrips. There also are projections showing 516,000 boardings and deboardings from future commuter rail service, potentially pushing total annual ridership up to 1.5 million.

The plan is to design a station with the capacity to handle growing ridership, plus allow dedicated space for buses to pick up and drop off passengers. There also are talks of including secure bicycle parking and maybe even a restaurant.


Source: http://www.mlive.com/news/ann-arbor/index.ssf/2014/06/3_sites_under_consideration_fo.html

Group unveils design for new Ann Arbor train station on stilts above tracks

July 1, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: News 

From The Ann Arbor News:

Depot_site_062414_RJS_03.jpg One of the renderings unveiled by Protect A2 Parks during a public meeting Tuesday night. It shows a new train station on stilts above the tracks along Depot Street.

One of the renderings unveiled by Protect A2 Parks during a public meeting. It shows a new train station on stilts above the tracks along Depot Street.

A conceptual design has emerged showing what a new Amtrak station could look like on stilts above the train tracks along Depot Street in Ann Arbor — on the same site as the existing station the city is considering replacing.

A citizens group called Protect A2 Parks, which has been lobbying against building a train station on city parkland on Fuller Road, unveiled a series of renderings during the public commentary portion of a meeting to discuss the project.

Ann Arbor resident Rita Mitchell, a member of Protect A2 Parks, presented the group’s drawings, identifying Mike Forgacs as the architect. The Sierra Club of Huron Valley has endorsed the group’s vision.

“Our goal really is to make sure that we use parks for parks,” Mitchell said, noting her group is opposed to building a train station on any city parkland.

“We want people to use transit, so we’re doing this in support of transit and trains, but we also want to use our parks as parks,” she reiterated.

As city officials have discussed the possibility of building a new Amtrak station for the last five years, a site on Fuller Road in front of the University of Michigan Hospital has been a continual front-runner. If the station goes there, it would take the place of what’s been a surface parking lot leased to the University of Michigan since 1993, though it’s also part of the city’s Fuller Park, and that’s caused some controversy.

“The place that looks like a parking lot right now — and is functioning as a parking lot — was one of the original parks in Ann Arbor,” Mitchell said. “It was actually also some original farmland in Ann Arbor, and it could be repurposed back to park use. You could expand the soccer fields right there. So we see that as a better option.”

City officials didn’t have a formal response to the group’s idea Tuesday night, but all comments that were made are being included in the public record and will be taken into consideration as the city and its consultants continue to evaluate possible sites.

“That is an idea, like many of the great ideas we heard tonight, that we will take with us as we move forward,” said city spokesman Robert Kellar.

In the coming months, the city and its consultants are planning to do further review of the Depot Street site, the Fuller Road site and another site on North Main street.

The conceptual design from Protect A2 Parks includes a new parking lot that also sits on stilts. Mitchell said it’s possible that a portion of the adjacent MichCon site could be purchased from DTE Energy if more land is needed for parking.

She said the renderings aren’t intended to be a fully fleshed-out plan, but rather a rough idea of what might be possible.

“The concept really is to go up and use the footprint that you can, and address some of the problems,” she said, suggesting the raised design offers a solution to concerns about flooding and some of the limits of the site.

The drawings show a building with a lot of glass that would include a ticket office, passenger lobby, restrooms and other amenities.

Regardless of what kind of station gets built or where, if there are going to be double tracks, it’s going to have to go up and over the tracks, Mitchell said.

“The idea of this is to use the existing site to its fullest extent for service of the rail and for some parking that is possibly a little more than is available right now,” she said, “and to incorporate aspects of transit that would allow them to access this site, allow some parking immediately adjacent, and some drop-off service for people.”

Source: http://www.mlive.com/news/ann-arbor/index.ssf/2014/06/group_puts_forward_plan_for_ne.html

MDOT to study rail line that would connect Grand Rapids, Lansing, Detroit

July 1, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: News 

From the Lansing State Journal:

8245480090_bbeb9f28cdThe Michigan Department of Transportation will study the viability of a passenger railroad line that would connect Holland to Detroit by way of Grand Rapids and Lansing.

The rail line may never materialize, but the study is the first official step by the state to create a new rail line connecting Grand Rapids, Lansing and Detroit. Those cities are currently not directly connected by passenger railroads.

“I would characterize this as the first step to even determine the viability/feasibility of such a service, and by no mean does this mean that we’re going to see rail passenger service running between these communities in any time frame,” said Tim Hoeffner, director of MDOT’s Office of Rail.

The study was mandated in the fiscal 2015 budget approved by lawmakers. The budget requires MDOT to submit a report to lawmakers by May 1, 2015.

Hoeffner said MDOT would likely hire a consultant to study socioeconomics in the communities along the proposed route and how people move between the cities to help determine potential ridership. If the study finds interest, Hoeffner said it would take “many, many years” and an allocation from the Legislature to build the line.

But Dan Sommerville, policy associate at the Michigan Environmental Council, said the route could be a natural choice for people looking for alternatives to road travel.

“Essentially, Detroit and Grand Rapids are the two largest metropolitan areas in the state, and right in the middle of that is our state capitol, and the only mode of transportation between those is a highway,” Sommerville said.

Rail ridership is on the rise. According to MDOT statistics, ridership on Amtrak lines in Michigan had climbed from 589,142 passengers in 1994 to 795,996 passengers last year. So far in 2014, 297,450 passengers have traveled Michigan railways.

The 2014 figures include 74,409 paseengers on the Blue Water line that connects Port Huron to Chicago, with a stop in East Lansing; 37,640 on the The Pere Marquette line that connects Grand Rapids to Chicago; and 185,401 passengers on the Wolverine, which connects to Detroit to Chicago.

Sommerville also said more than a dozen colleges and universities are within walking distance along the proposed route. That’s a potential gold mine of ridership as students travel home from college or travel among schools.

“This could be something that helps stem that brain drain and keep young people here,” along with other economic benefits and the aid to environment by having fewer cars on the highway, Sommerville said.

Hoeffner and Sommerville said residents had shown interest in a Grand Rapids-to-Lansing-to-Detroit line when MDOT sought public comment on its rail plan in 2010 and 2011. The Environmental Council, in partnership with the Michigan Association of Railroad Passengers, helped MDOT gather input through public forums held around the state.

Sommerville said a passenger line operated between Grand Rapids and Detroit, through Lansing, until 1971. He said tracks exist along that route that are currently used by freight trains and those tracks could be upgraded to handle the faster passenger cars.

Sommerville said he’s optimistic the route could be built because “MDOT’s taking an increased interested in passenger rail.” He pointed, for example, to the department’s recent purchase of and upgrades to rail line between Kalamazoo and Dearborn.

Amtrak, which runs passenger rail lines for the state, would be interested in taking on the new line “if it made sense for both of us,” spokesman Marc Magliari said.

Source: http://www.lansingstatejournal.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2014306170052

2nd Annual Michigan Rail Conference

June 29, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Announcements, FYI 

Aug. 26-27, 2014
John Lewis Center,

Macomb Community College
14500 E. 12 Mile Road

Warren, MI 48088.
(The Center is designated as
K-Building on the South Campus Map.)

Conference Registration Fee: $75.00,

Field Trip Fee:$25.00

More information at:






Column: Railroads need funding, too

June 29, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: News 

From The Detroit News:

From The Detroit News

From The Detroit News

We commend Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville for introducing a plan to increase transportation funds across all platforms in Michigan, including infrastructure repairs to roads and bridges, investment in public transit, and vital improvements to our railroads.

Rail transportation is vital to Michigan’s agricultural economy, which generates more than $96 billion in annual economic activity, and supports one in four jobs.

Farmers need a reliable transportation network for moving their crops to market in a timely and cost-efficient manner. Without rail access, towns aren’t likely to attract major new agricultural facilities — and the jobs associated with them. State support for rail lines and crossings is vital to achieving that goal.

The Michigan Farm Bureau and the Michigan Railroads Association are joining with major business groups — including the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, Business Leaders for Michigan, and regional chambers of commerce including those in Detroit and Lansing — to add our voices to Gov. Rick Snyder’s call for major investment in transportation infrastructure, and to ensure that all aspects of that infrastructure are included.

This type of forward thinking is what we need to compete in an increasingly global economy. Such a plan would meet the needs of our state for years to come; that’s why it’s backed by business groups and environmental and transit organizations that recognize the time is now for funding long overdue structural repairs.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Michigan ranks 14th nationally in grain and oilseed production, and from 2006-2010 averaged 424 million bushels of crops, primarily corn, soybeans and wheat. Our state ships millions of tons of these crops by rail, saving on transport costs and reducing wear and tear on roads on our crumbling roads.

The math is simple: Failing to invest in our state’s entire transportation infrastructure hurts our ability to be competitive and keep agricultural jobs in Michigan.

We encourage lawmakers to work diligently in the coming days to create a legislative package that will meet our state’s long-term needs. That means major increases in transportation spending — and ensuring that the investment goes toward all of our transportation infrastructure. Such a move has the support of Michigan voters — including the agricultural community, which relies heavily on rail to get products to market.

Andrew Vermeesch is associate legislative council for the Michigan Farm Bureau.
Jon Cool is president of the Michigan Railroads Association.

From The Detroit News: http://www.detroitnews.com/article/20140610/OPINION01/306100009#ixzz363C2ZsPh

WALLY group eyes diesel option

June 27, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: News 

From The Livingston Daily Press & Argus:

usrailcarrenderingDiesel multiple-unit rail cars, or DMUs, have been suggested as an alternative to Washtenaw and Livingston Line rail cars, said Michael Benham, strategic planner for the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority, which oversees the WALLY commuter train project.

Benham said DMUs can be less costly to operate, although the cost of having personnel to run them could dash any savings. Only a few diesel rail cars have been approved for use by the Federal Railroad Administration.

The self-propelled, diesel-fueled cars are most common in Europe, Benham said.

“It’s out there as a possibility,” he said, but, “you can’t just put anything on the tracks.”

“As a planner, we need to know about these things. We need to be aware these technologies are out there,” Benham added.

DMUs produce 72 percent less pollution and 75 percent less noise than traditional rail cars and save on purchase and operating costs, according to the FRA’s website.

WALLY, first proposed in 2006, would create a commuter rail line between Howell and Ann Arbor on existing rail.

Source: http://www.livingstondaily.com/article/20140609/NEWS01/306090014/WALLY-group-eyes-diesel-option

Columnist: Gov. Walker’s train gaffe costing Wisconsin big time

June 27, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: News 

From The Capital Times:

In this 2009 file photo, a model of a high-speed train is seen outside of a press conference where Gov. Jim Doyle announced Wisconsin's partnership with the Spanish train manufacturer Talgo. But after he was elected governor, Scott Walker nixed the plan.

In this 2009 file photo, a model of a high-speed train is seen outside of a press conference where Gov. Jim Doyle announced Wisconsin’s partnership with the Spanish train manufacturer Talgo. But after he was elected governor, Scott Walker nixed the plan.

It didn’t get a lot of press — two Milwaukee bloggers noted it — but Talgo, the Spain- and U.S.-based train manufacturer, closed its factory on Milwaukee’s north side last week and moved the last of its train sets out of town. They will probably be sold to Michigan.

The irony is that here was a manufacturing company that was enticed to Wisconsin thanks to a bundle of federal dollars but was chased away by a new governor who professed his main interest was creating jobs and making Wisconsin friendly to business. Yes, go figure.

Instead, he kissed goodbye several hundred jobs that would have been created in one of Milwaukee’s poorer neighborhoods and gave the federal government back $810 million that was to pay for expanding passenger rail service from Milwaukee to Madison and create roughly 4,000 construction jobs to boot.

It is not only one of the biggest financial blunders in the state’s history, but ranks high for its utter cluelessness. And its says volumes about the governor’s judgment.

Talgo is now suing the state for $65 million for the state’s reneging on its Talgo contract, and Wisconsin has to foot the bill for a multimillion-dollar maintenance facility and handicap accessibility upgrade at the Milwaukee station, all of which would have been covered by the $810 million federal grant.

These expenditures would have covered dozens of years of the supposed $6 million annual maintenance cost Gov. Scott Walker used as an excuse to scuttle the rail upgrade. As is the case for so many of his claims, that $6 million was inflated by a factor of 10. The actual cost to the state would have been more like $600,000. But there’s a reason Walker routinely gets “pants on fire” ratings from the fact-checking PolitiFact.

So here we are with a robust passenger rail service restricted between Milwaukee and Chicago and a one-train-a-day Amtrak whose only big-city stops in Wisconsin are in Milwaukee and La Crosse.

Perhaps that wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for the trends that are taking hold in the country, apparently unbeknown to those who run our state.

Newspapers around the country devoted nearly a full page to the topic last Sunday under a headline that read: “A love affair on fumes?” The Associated Press story was referring to the fact that America is driving a lot less these days, and where once 16-year-olds couldn’t wait to get their hands on the family car, less than 70 percent of 19-year-olds now have a driver’s license.

Some of the decline — 10 percent since 2004 — is attributed to greater reliance on bicycles, but there’s been an enormous increase in the use of commuter and passenger rail as an alternative to owning cars.

Further, according to the research group WISPIRG, many young people are opting to find jobs where they can get to work without owning a car.

But, no, we’d rather build more highways, spend a billion bucks on Milwaukee’s zoo interchange, and borrow money to pay for it.

That, folks, is a pretty poor plan.

Written by Dave Zweifel who is editor emeritus of The Capital Times. dzweifel@madison.com and @DaveZweifel

Read more: http://host.madison.com/news/opinion/column/dave_zweifel/plain-talk-walker-s-train-gaffe-costing-state-big-time/article_5e93464e-5341-557e-9983-8e931bae444f.html#ixzz35uB9uzgq


Ann Arbor working to narrow down a list of potential train station sites

June 27, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: News 

From The Ann Arbor News:

As city officials consider site alternatives for a new train station, eight locations along the east-west tracks that pass through Ann Arbor have been identified as meeting Amtrak's requirement that there be 1,000 feet of straight track.

As city officials consider site alternatives for a new train station, eight locations along the east-west tracks that pass through Ann Arbor have been identified as meeting Amtrak’s requirement that there be 1,000 feet of straight track.

The city of Ann Arbor has held a series of meetings in June to continue a public dialogue about a new Amtrak station in the city.

During the meetings, the city and its consultants presented analysis of eight potential sites being considered for a new train station, and will ask attendees to help narrow down the list and identify preferred sites for further evaluation.

City officials are looking into options for a new station with improved accessibility and accommodations to handle expected increases in passengers as high-speed rail between Detroit and Chicago takes off in the next two to three years and as a long-promised commuter rail service between Detroit and Ann Arbor potentially follows.

One of the sites under consideration is along Fuller Road in front of the University of Michigan Hospital, where the city previously developed a conceptual plan for a train station and a large parking garage for the university.

That plan was scrapped two years ago after funding assumptions changed and U-M moved forward with building a parking garage on Wall Street.

As part of the new site selection process, the city is considering everything from sticking with the existing Amtrak station on Depot Street to redeveloping the Depot Street site or building a new station elsewhere.

The first of the eight rail segments shown on the map is along the south side of Barton Pond. Going east, other sites include where the tracks cut along the north edge of the Barton Nature Area, along Bandemer Park and Argo Pond, the existing Depot Street site, along Fuller Road in front of the U-M Hospital, another stretch of track next to Mitchell Field east of the hospital, and two spots in and adjacent to Gallup Park.

The planning study being done right now is expected to culminate with production of a conceptual design for a new or enhanced train station/intermodal facility in Ann Arbor, as outlined in the city’s 2009 Transportation Plan Update. In the end, city officials said, voters or their representatives will decide whether a new train station or improvements to the existing one on Depot Street is in the city’s best interest.

The project team is expected to work on drafting a conceptual plan in August and September, with more work following from October into December to finalize the concept. Another round of public input sessions will be held at that time.

Additional project information, including notes and presentations from previous meetings, can be found at www.a2gov.org/annarborstation.

Source: http://www.mlive.com/news/ann-arbor/index.ssf/2014/06/city_working_to_narrow_down_li.html

Brand-new passenger trains roll out of Milwaukee

June 22, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: News 

From the Milwaukee Business Journal:


Photo from Talgo.

Photo from Talgo.

Talgo Inc. recently rolled two passenger trains out of Milwaukee and sent them to the Amtrak Beech Grove facility in Indiana to save money.

The company soon will terminate its lease for a city-owned building that, in 2010, was envisioned to be the hub of Talgo’s U.S. train manufacturing and the anchor to draw more companies to the former Tower Automotive property on Milwaukee’s north side.

“It is regrettable that we have to move out of Wisconsin,” said Nora Friend, Talgo Inc. vice president of public affairs and business development.

The contract between the state and Talgo for those two trains remains the focus of a dispute. The state originally commissioned the trains to run on the Amtrak Hiawatha line between Milwaukee and Chicago. Talgo officials anticipate they will sue the state for damages over that contract, Friend said.

Talgo is moving them to an outdoor facility in Indiana to save money on rent and personnel costs, Friend said. Talgo is trying to sell the trains and is in discussion with several states, she said.

“The ownership of the trains is not in question,” she said. “That is why we are moving the trains out of the state of Wisconsin and are trying to mitigate damages and are basically trying to find a home for the trains.”

Source: http://www.bizjournals.com/milwaukee/news/2014/05/29/talgo-trains-roll-out-of-milwaukee-ending-the.html

M-1 RAIL to benefit from JP Morgan Chase Investment in Detroit

June 19, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
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From M-1 Light Rail:

Here's an artist's rendition of the proposed streetcar line on Woodward Avenue in Detroit. (From M-! Rail.)

Here’s an artist’s rendition of the proposed streetcar line on Woodward Avenue in Detroit.
(From M-! Rail.)

The Detroit Free Press reports that JP Morgan Chase will invest a total of $100 million into Detroit, with $5.5 million of that total being invested into the M-1 RAIL Project and other initiatives.

The Chase money will flow through multiple partners already active in the city who promote real estate development, provide assistance to small businesses and entrepreneurs, and train residents for new jobs. Among the specific beneficiaries will be the M-1 Rail streetcar project, Eastern Market, Focus:Hope, and a variety of workforce training and entrepreneurship programs.

According to a PDF released by JP Morgan Chase:

“Construction of the 3.3-mile M-1 streetcar holds the promise of catalyzing further investment, economic development and urban renewal in Downtown Detroit – the city’s central business district – and surrounding neighborhoods. JPMorgan Chase is supporting the M-1 project by working to raise $30 million in New Markets Tax Credits, the cornerstone of the project’s financing. We also are making a $1.5 million philanthropic grant to M-1 RAIL, the nonprofit organization that is leading M-1’s construction.”

 ■ PDF: JPMorgan Chase breaks down details of $100M Detroit investment

Read the full article here.

Source: http://m-1rail.com/jpmorgan-chase-invest-100m-detroit-development-job-training-home-loans/?utm_source=M-1%20RAIL%20Newsletter&utm_campaign=1b64025241-M1_Newsletter_April_2014_copy_01_5_20_2014&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_0c189888cc-1b64025241-421287165

June 2014 edition of On Track

June 10, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Newsletter 

Click here to save this file or to view it as a PDF in full screen.

We hope you enjoy the issue and that you will let us hear your comments and suggestions. If you would like to write a story or suggest an item to be covered, email us at marprail@yahoo.com

For those without a PDF reader, click on the images below to view them full screen.

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MARP meets June 14, 2014 in Lansing

June 3, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Meetings 
MARP Member Meeting
Saturday, June 14, 2014, 10 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
Former GTW Depot, now the REO Town Depot
Board of Water & Light
1205 S. Washington Ave
Lansing MI 48910
Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero delivered his 2013 State of the City address in the newly restored Grand Trunk Western depot adjacent to BWL's new REO Town power plant. / Courtesy photo

Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero delivered his 2013 State of the City address in the newly restored Grand Trunk Western depot adjacent to BWL’s new REO Town power plant. / Courtesy photo

MARP will be among the first community groups to enjoy the recently completed restoration of the historic Grand Trunk Western Railway Station in Lansing. Built in 1902, this classic Spier & Rohn-designed building hasn’t seen service as a passenger station since 1971 and was 4 years into its life as a restaurant when Gerald Ford dropped by for lunch during a whistle stop campaign tour in 1976.

The building has been painstakingly restored in conjunction with the development of the new Lansing Board of Water & Light cogeneration plant with which it shares the 5.3 acre site in the area known as Reo Town. The depot is listed on the State Register of Historic Sites and the National Register of Historic Places.
The BWL spent more than $2.8 million restoring the depot to serve as the home for board meetings and employee training. From its terra cotta roof to the dark wood ceiling, period light fixtures, windows, walls and wainscoting, the restoration has been described as “stunning”.
Two design firms, Ann Arbor’s Quinn Evans and Cornerstone of Grand Rapids, shared the design work on the restoration. Two Lansing-based companies, Granger Construction and Christman Co., did the exterior and interior work, respectively.
The eye-catching terra cotta roof involved a bit of serendipity. The tiles were 110 years old and needed to be replaced. The original manufacturer — Ludowici Roof Tile Co. of New Lexington, Ohio, a 120-year-old company with roots in Renaissance Rome and still in business — had the original plans for the depot and produced 14,600 new tiles to the original specifications.
Following the meeting, please plan to socialize over lunch at Clara’s Lansing Station, another of Lansing’s historic railway stations, at 637 East Michigan.

Michigan Association of Railroad Passengers
*   *   *   *   *   *   *
Read the Lansing State Journal article by Steven R. Reed here.
The $182 million-fired REO Town cogeneration plant was completed in mid-2013, producing affordable electricity and steam while significantly reducing the emissions associated with burning coal. BWL’s general manager Peter Lark has said, “We believe we have the cleanest, most efficient electricity-and-steam-producing unit in the country”.
Anearlier City Pulse story by Lawrence Cosentino includes interesting historical detail.
REO Town, just south of Downtown Lansing, is at the core of Lansing’s automotive history and is one of Lansing’s revitalized gems. The commercial corridor and three neighborhoods of Moore’s Park, Fabulous Acres and River Point make up Reo Town. These distinct neighbors surround the former R. E. Olds Motor plant which was the backbone of Capital region labor in the early 1900’s. 

BWL   check to see if Eckert and Viper’s three eggs have hatched

Porter Junction rail project finally gets green light

May 28, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: News 

From The Northwest Indiana Times:

The long-delayed Indiana Gateway rail project will be kicked off by Gov. Mike Pence and other officials on Thursday, which will lead to $71.4 million in construction projects during the next two years.

The Indiana Department of Transportation and Federal Railroad Administration on Tuesday confirmed the Indiana Gateway finally has the green light, with some work already underway.

The Federal Railroad Administration, Amtrak and INDOT declined to say much more on Tuesday, saying most details would be forthcoming Thursday at a news conference at the Hammond-Whiting Amtrak station.

The Indiana Gateway project was first announced in January 2010 as part of the Obama administration’s nationwide high-speed rail initiative. In all, $8 billion in funding was announced for projects, including $2.6 billion for Midwest projects centering on Chicago.

One of the larger individual projects within the Indiana Gateway will take place at Porter Junction, where 14 Amtrak trains and 90 freight trains cross paths daily, often leading to long delays, according to the INDOT application for the project.

Materials have been ordered and construction work will start soon at the crossing just south of the small town’s historic downtown. It should be completed next year, said INDOT spokesman Will Wingfield.

The Porter Junction currently stands as a roadblock to instituting high-speed service between Chicago and Detroit, a project that has won hundreds of millions in federal funding.

The Indiana Gateway work was first delayed as Norfolk Southern, Amtrak, the Federal Railroad Administration and INDOT negotiated over the best way to reconfigure tracks. In September 2012 a deal was finally struck, but there has been little construction work done up until now.

The Indiana Gateway was the only Indiana project approved under Obama’s high-speed rail initiative, which was a key part of the administration’s stimulus effort to lift the U.S. economy out of the Great Recession. The project will create some 700 construction jobs, according to INDOT’s application.

Source: http://www.nwitimes.com/business/local/porter-junction-rail-project-finally-gets-green-light/article_f90e9daa-50a7-5418-96b3-00f5d8cdabae.html

M-1 on track for groundbreaking in Detroit

May 23, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: News 

From The Detroit News:

Here's an artist's rendition of the proposed streetcar line on Woodward Avenue in Detroit. (From M-! Rail.)

Here’s an artist’s rendition of the proposed streetcar line on Woodward Avenue in Detroit.
(From M-! Rail.)

The M-1 Rail project is inching closer to reality, organizers say, with a groundbreaking planned this summer that will rebuild a portion of Woodward Avenue and add sleek streetcars.

Officials won’t reveal when construction will begin — the road will be completely rebuilt from Adams past West Grand Boulevard. But they say they are down to a couple of vendors to build the streetcars and are close to securing the $140 million of mostly philanthropic money needed for the public-private project.

After six years of debate, delays and changes, M-1 Rail officials and others say the 3.3-mile route that once was considered to extend to Eight Mile and connect to other rail lines could be the catalyst to jump-start alternative modes of mass transit and convince a dubious public these types of projects can get done.

“Once it’s up and running, it will be over the top,” said Paul Childs, chief operating officer of the project, which will have 12 stops and 20 stations (at four stops, trains in both directions will share a station). “We’re confident about that.”

Only utility work has been done along the route. And there have been plenty of hiccups — such as scaling back a plan to extend the route to Eight Mile — even with the financial backing of business titans such as Roger Penske and Dan Gilbert.

Pat Baldwin of Detroit said she would use the streetcar to help get to and from work. She has seen many transportation plans start with great interest and then fizzle. She’d love to see the line eventually extend to Eight Mile and beyond.

“I’m sure they’ll build the first phase,” she said. “It kind of reminds me of the People Mover situation. It kind of goes nowhere, but it goes just a little somewhere. And the idea was to have it expanded and it never did. I just don’t want the M-1 Rail to get stuck like that.

“I think some powers that be are resistant to having mass transit,” she added. “I don’t think we can become a true cosmopolitan city without it.”

False starts and challenges

Matthew Cullen, president and CEO of Rock Ventures and a member of the M-1 board of directors, said the project will happen. But he understands how people who have heard much about the M-1 over the years could doubt that streetcars, which once were common in the city, will ever get done.

“I don’t blame people for being skeptical,” Cullen said. “The way you overcome that is to get it done.”

Childs said the goal of the streetcar line was always intended to be shorter, but at some point in the future it could be extended. Along with working with the federal, state and city officials on everything from permits to underground and utility work, M-1 officials have been coalescing residents and business owners in anticipation this project will happen.

“With any project, you always wonder if you’re going to get to the end,” Childs said. “But you come on to a project like this, particularly these public-private partnerships, with the firm belief that your vision’s going to come to fruition.”

The streetcar concept, executed successfully in such cities as Portland, Seattle and Minneapolis, took root in 2007 with business and others leaders who wanted to better connect downtown Detroit with Midtown and prompt business and residential growth along Woodward. The M-1 group was formed in 2008.

The road — or track — to creating this light rail trolley line was paved with challenges. There was support to extend the rail line nine miles to a light rail transit system and millions in federal funding went into the $500 million project.

But in 2011, with the city’s financial struggles and the fact that no regional transit agency was up and running, the effort died. The following year, the shorter streetcar route was revived with strong business backing.

Design hasn’t been chosen

The design of the streetcars has yet to be chosen, but they will be double-ended with doors on both sides with 12 stops through several stations that will be built to fit the aesthetics and historical value of the area. So each station will be sized and shaped differently, organizers said.

At the end of each stop, the trains won’t turn around; rather, the trolley operator will move from one end to the other and drive it the other way. Some parts of the route will stop at stations and run in the center lane of Woodward while other parts will run along the right side of the road.

Megan Owens, the executive director of the nonprofit Transportation Riders United organization that advocates for improved mass transit in Metro Detroit, said there was a lot of doubt the project would see the light of day given all the funding struggles.

She admits “there is a perception of ‘I will believe it when I see it’” out among the public but Owens is “95 percent certain” the rail line will be operational in 2016 and sees it as “transformational” because it will undoubtedly kick start other transit projects.

“There’s still a possibility that something could fall apart but given the smart and powerful people behind it, they have certainly been doing an aggressive job of working through all the problems,” Owens said. “If something were to fall through, it would be really devastating.”

Owens said communication about the project has improved considerably because organizers have hired community liaisons to meet regularly with the public.

Cullen said the financial pieces are nearly in place as they are finalizing the remaining commitments for the money. Money is needed not only to build the rail line and rebuild parts of Woodward, but also to maintain the operation. “There are lots of moving parts, but we really are getting tremendous momentum now,” he said.

Anxious for operation

John Kewish has owned Grace Harper Florist in Midtown for decades. He’s heard the streetcar project talked about for years and never thought it would come to fruition.

Kewish said he’s elated the street will be repaved and other improvements are to be made but he’s worried about increased traffic and disruption during construction.

“I’m a little apprehensive on the whole thing and the real value of it, but I understand it’s going to bring a lot of people downtown,” Kewish said. “I’m well aware of the benefits of it, but I wish they’d make it go all the way to Pontiac.”

Leo Hanifin, a member of the M-1 board who has been studying and pushing for improved mass transit in Metro Detroit for years, said the trolley can give an economic and image boost to a city that has been mired in its own financial struggles.

But Hanifin also sees another potential benefit: selling mass transit to a skeptical region since M-1 is expected to be operational when the Regional Transit Authority plans to seek a funding referendum in Oakland, Macomb, Wayne and Washtenaw counties in 2016.

“If people can get a personal experience on (the M-1 rail) in southeastern Michigan, it will help them to form and develop an appreciation for the systems that people across the country are enjoying and benefiting from,” Hanifin said.

“There’s a different dynamic occurring in the city whereby business leaders and political leaders are cooperating far more than they have in the past and some of that is bearing fruit. And M-1 is a good example of that.”

From The Detroit News: http://www.detroitnews.com/article/20140520/METRO01/305200020#ixzz32YnLrFzT

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