Jackson to host forum to discuss high-speed rail project

From the Jackson Citizen-Patriot

For two years Jackson officials have been going to Lansing to lobby for high-speed and commuter rail.

Now they can do it here.

Jackson is the next stop in a series of forums the Michigan Environmental Council and Michigan Association of Railroad Passengers is holding across the state to get input on the rail system’s future.

John Langdon, the association’s governmental affairs coordinator, said the meeting is a chance for people to share their vision of the system and persuade state officials to make it a reality.

“We will present it to the new administration in Lansing and make other elected officials in the Senate and the House aware of how the public feels,” Langdon said.

Officials have been trying to make Jackson a stop in a high-speed rail line proposed between Detroit and Chicago and an extension of a commuter line proposed between Ann Arbor and Detroit.

U.S. Rep. Mark Schauer, D-Battle Creek, said he plans to attend the first part of the meeting and stress the link between rail improvements, energy conservation and economic development.

“Rail service is an energy-efficient alternative for getting from city to city, and it creates jobs,” Schauer said. “It is worth fighting for.”

Schauer said he thinks Jackson will be a high-speed and commuter rail stop one day, but he said it could happen sooner with a broad coalition of groups behind it.

Jackson Citizens for Economic Growth has been lobbying to make Jackson a high-speed rail stop since 2008. Last year, it started pushing for Jackson to be included in a future phase of the Ann Arbor-Detroit commuter line.

Executive Director Salah Huwais said JCEG members know it will take a while to achieve those goals. They plan to attend the forum to raise public awareness of the impact rail system improvements would have on Jackson.

“Anything we can do to bring more positive momentum … we will do,” Huwais said.

The Michigan Department of Transportation is expected to hold its own series of meetings to get input in the fall.

Meeting info

The Michigan by Rail Public Forum will take place from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday at the Michigan Theatre, 124 N. Mechanic St. For more information, go to www.michiganbyrail.org.

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