Troy debates sending back $8.5 million in U.S. aid for transit center

From the Detroit Free Press:

Mass transit proposals are gaining speed in metro Detroit, but Troy’s new mayor said she wants to stop a decade-long effort to build a transit center at the Troy-Birmingham border.

Mayor Janice Daniels, an activist in Michigan’s Tea Party, campaigned against spending $8.5 million in federal funds for the rail-passenger project.

At Monday’s Troy City Council meeting, several speakers echoed Daniels’ wish to let the federal funds expire. Others voiced support for approval by the Dec. 19 funding deadline.

Council members are expected to vote on the project at the Dec. 19 meeting.

“I’m having a problem seeing the business case for this center,” said Ron Wilson, a 30-year resident and CEO of Troy-based Hotel Investment Services.

“The City of Troy cannot afford this $8.5 million of free money. It’s never free,” Wilson said. The city would incur unplanned costs, he said.

“Any money that comes to Troy should stay in Troy,” countered Bruce Bloomingdale, 71, who said Troy for too long has been “a donor city to both the state and federal governments.”

Daniels, and two council members elected Nov. 8 on a slate with her, have said the project is wasteful government spending. They said they won’t support it, even knowing the funding likely would go to projects outside of Michigan if Troy rebuffs it.

City plans show the center would be west of Coolidge and south of Maple, by railroad tracks that run to Detroit, Ann Arbor and Chicago. It would have room for SMART buses and stops for taxis and limos.

“I oppose this on principle,” Daniels said Saturday. “How do you justify taking $8.5 million from a government that is trillions of dollars in debt?” The City of Birmingham backed out of the project in 2010, citing concerns about unknown potential costs — another reason for Troy to drop it as well, Daniels said.

Mass transit initiatives across the region include a light-rail project proposed for Woodward in Detroit and federal funds allocated this year for a high-speed rail line from Detroit to Chicago.

The Troy Chamber of Commerce is strongly behind the transit center, chamber President Michele Hodges said.

“Transit is a vital asset that we need to compete (and) to enhance property values,” Hodges told council members.