From The Detroit News:
Federal funds for project are already appropriated; station could serve additional transit needs
Like a lot of Michigan cities, Troy is under pressure from citizens to hold the line on taxes while decreased real estate values and state revenue sharing have shrunk the tax base. But even under those circumstances, it would be a mistake for Troy to reject a long-planned Amtrak station and transit center.
Construction of the transportation center would be fully funded by nearly $8.5 million in federal money. This is a freebie that would bring back $8.5 million more of the tax dollars that Michigan — and Oakland County in particular — send to Washington, D.C. without getting a full return.
Troy’s possible change of heart is more likely the result of regime change. New Mayor Janice Daniels and at least a couple of council members aren’t fond of the project, which has had its ups and downs.
They’re suspicious of past decision-making and note that the sprawling Oakland County community of 80,000 has more pressing needs. A long council meeting this week resulted in no final decision, except to invite added public discussion. And before the council green-lights this project, that could be beneficial.
The proposed “multi-modal transit center,” at the Maple Road-Coolidge Highway intersection, was one suggestion from a citizen-business leader task force in 2005.
Troy had obtained a triangular parcel for it five years earlier in a settlement that permitted a developer to go ahead with a 77-acre mixed-use project including stores and condominiums in the same area.
The parcel is just across the tracks from Birmingham’s Amtrak stop, which consists of little more than a boarding platform and a few parking spaces. Officials of the two cities agreed to build a train station in Troy with a tunnel connection to the boarding platform and some added facilities for other public transportation, including taxis and buses.
Birmingham pulled out of the deal earlier this year when it couldn’t get added property at a reasonable price. Troy meanwhile is under pressure from the mixed-use project developer, Grand Sakwa, which says it was supposed to get back its piece of ground last year if the city failed to meet a 10-year timetable for the transit center.
Until this fall, Troy officials still intended to go on with the project. The federal grant would pay for construction. A $30,000-a-year city expense to maintain the facility would be partly offset by an Amtrak lease agreement.
The Amtrak line has increasing ridership on three passenger trains running each way daily between Pontiac and Chicago.
It’s designated for upgrading to high-speed rail service under a plan favored by Gov. Rick Snyder.
Mayor Daniels, who follows fiscally frugal tea party ideals, rightly questions whether the debt-ridden federal government can afford to be handing out money for such projects. It’s also true that Troy has more basic needs.
Unfortunately, refusing the money would do nothing to resolve either of those issues. As far as Washington is concerned, the money’s already appropriated.
It simply will go to a transit project in another city and state if Troy backs out.
Snyder has a logical outlook on such matters: Do what’s best for Michigan and leave Washington’s money woes to our federally elected leaders.