All posts by Carolyn Ulstad

Amtrak’s Chicago Access Presentation

Amtrak’s Chicago Access Presentation

Derrick James from Amtrak’s Government Affairs office gave a presentation during the September 15th Member Meeting.

Amtrak, along with Illinois and Michigan, is applying for funding for a project called Chicago Access / Michigan East that has important implications for the future of Michigan’s train services.

Slides are provided here:



Detroit’s New Center Intermodal Facility

Over the last few months, the project team has worked to more clearly define the elements of the New Center Intermodal Facility (NCIF). Early design decisions include:

  • Bus station entrance/exit on Amsterdam Street instead of Woodward Avenue (buses turning out of the bus station onto Woodward Avenue and cars driving down Woodward Avenue would have limited sight distance of each other, causing potential safety hazards).
  • Two story building on the south side of the railroad tracks: one story for the intercity bus station on the ground floor and a parking deck on the second floor, including spaces for employee parking, short- and long-term passenger parking, carshare/rental car parking, and electric vehicle charging. The parking structure will be built to accommodate potential additional floors of parking in the future.

See the two documents attached for more information.



Recorded Presentation: Chicago Access Program


High Speed Rail Alliance

“This presentation covers the Chicago Access Program, a group of high-impact projects that will increase capacity and improve reliability for trains entering and exiting Chicago. Amtrak is taking the lead on this program that will improve Chicago Union Station, create more routes into the city and open up a variety of new service options. They have already applied for a Mega Grant and partnered with stakeholders who will help fund this $850 million project.

In this video we break down the projects included in the Chicago Access Program, explain why it will impact train service far beyond Chicago, and how it sets the stage for additional improvements to our national rail network.

Video link:

Learn more about the Chicago Access Program on our website”

Lawmakers Accelerate Northern Michigan Rail



The effort to connect people and businesses in northern Michigan to the rest of the state and country with modern passenger train service reached a huge milestone recently with new funding through state and federal agencies.

In July, Michigan state lawmakers, led by northern Michigan’s Senator Wayne Schmidt, included $1

million to advance the northern Michigan passenger rail Phase II planning study in the State of Michigan’s 2023 Labor and Economic Opportunity budget.

Then, just last week, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg announced that the U.S. Department of Transportation would support the Phase II study by providing the remaining $1.3 million through the Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) grant program.

The grant was awarded to the Cadillac/Wexford Transit Authority, which will work in partnership with Groundwork and a team of partners to complete the planning study.

The boost of new funding is a major milestone in the long-term effort to bring passenger rail service—and related economic development—to towns all along the north-south route and give families and workers a safe, environmentally friendly way to travel throughout the state while also reducing cars on our highways.

This planning study builds on work completed over the past several years to restore passenger service to the Traverse City area. In 2018, Groundwork and many other partners completed an initial feasibility study that explored what it would take to get trains up and running along an active state-owned railroad corridor that runs from southeast Michigan to the Traverse City and Petoskey areas.

The study showed that the proposed service is economically viable, and since the study’s release, the state has been improving the tracks for freight and potential future passenger service. In 2019 and 2021, state lawmakers approved funding to repair tracks near Traverse City. Then, in 2022, the Michigan Department of Transportation was awarded a $21 million federal railroad grant to repair tracks just north of Ann Arbor.

The next stage planning study would identify and prioritize improvements needed along the corridor to maximize freight and passenger opportunities, which could include crossing signal and track upgrades, safety technology, potential bridge replacements, community-specific station needs, and equipment.

The Phase II study will also develop a business plan for passenger service—updating the project’s market and ridership forecasts and laying out the stations and schedule of service. The study’s result will be a vision and plan for how the service will work. The study team will also look at changes in supply chains, so that Michigan businesses along the route can have more efficient and affordable shipping connections to the rest of the world.

Public engagement will be an essential part of the planning process, and the study will offer a great opportunity for residents and travelers in communities on the route to shape future train service they want to see and use. Over the next year or so, we will conduct surveys and hold events all along the line to get your feedback. Towns on the railroad include Petoskey, Kalkaska, Traverse City, Kingsley, Cadillac, Clare, Mt. Pleasant, Alma, Owosso, Durand, Howell, Ann Arbor, and a potential route to Detroit.

Getting a 240-mile train line up and running is no small task. There are many environmental standards, safety regulations, and engineering guidelines that must be followed to make the project a reality. The next 18 months are crucial to the project, and we’re hopeful this will lead to the beginning stages of service within five years.

Stay tuned for more info and look for ways you can get involved.