February 25, 2010

Michigan’s transportation department’s proposal to close the Pere Marquette rail service between Grand Rapids and Chicago would be a costly mistake for the state’s economic development and tourism interests, according to local lawmakers.

State Rep. Bob Genetski was among five southwest Michigan representatives who sent a letter on Feb. 23 to Kirk T. Steudle, Michigan Department of Transportation director, highlighting the importance of the rail line to families and local communities.

“The train service provides economical transportation for workers commuting to jobs between Grand Rapids and Chicago, and families use the Pere Marquette to make lasting vacation memories while traveling to our picturesque local communities along the lakeshore and in the region,” said Genetski, R-Saugatuck. “Our towns are seeing some growth as a direct result of the rail service. Any reduction in the service will diminish the opportunities the train has been delivering successfully for the last quarter century.”

The lawmakers’ letter points to the exponential business and population growth in the city of Grand Rapids in recent years, as well as in other southwest Michigan communities such as New Buffalo, Niles, South Haven and Holland. The document also mentions the valuable link the rail service provides to Chicago residents who travel north into Michigan for recreation and vacation opportunities.

Another argument for the Pere Marquette line comes from MDOT’s own Web site, which reported that “from 2002 to 2008, Amtrak ridership in Michigan has grown by 60 percent,” and “Pere Marquette service has grown every year since 2001.”

“Michigan is searching for solutions to turn our economy and job market around,” Genetski said. “Those answers won’t be found in one magic box, but in many smaller pieces of the puzzle. The Pere Marquette is not only a piece of that, but it actually helps connect many of the other parts.
“It doesn’t make sense for the state department to eliminate or even reduce something that is working for Michigan and its residents.”