Transit center rejected by Troy

From the Detroit Free Press

A federally funded transportation center in Troy that leaders across the region considered an important piece to boost mass-transit opportunities in metro Detroit will not get built after the Troy City Council rejected the proposal Monday night.

Opponents called the $8.5-million, 2,500-square-foot center a waste of tax dollars, even though Troy City Hall would not have footed the bill.

Troy’s new mayor, Janice Daniels, along with council members Wade Fleming, Doug Tietz and Dave Henderson, voted against accepting U.S. funds for the project. Opposing that decision were Mayor Pro Tem Maureen McGinnis and council members Dane Slater and Jim Campbell

“The council was turned over to new council members and a new mayor because we campaigned on a pledge to stop this transit center,” Daniels said during the Monday night council meeting.

Monday’s vote came despite a letter from Gov. Rick Snyder urging the council to support the center. It was also the last day for a decision that would have left enough time to design and build it before a completion deadline of Oct. 1, 2013, set by the U.S. Department of Transportation, City Manager John Szerlag said.

The vote capped more than a decade of sometimes bitter debate over whether to build a rail transit center on the Troy-Birmingham border near Maple Road and Coolidge.

Birmingham officials voted to withdraw from the project in April after they said a landowner wanted double the appraised value — $1 million instead of $500,000 — for land adjoining the tracks. After Birmingham’s vote, the design quickly was changed to put the station and parking on the Troy side, with a bridge over the tracks so that passengers could board on the Birmingham side.

The transit center could be “our city’s future competitive opportunity,” Troy Chamber of Commerce President Michele Hodges told the council at Monday’s meeting, as nearly two dozen executives from major Troy employers — including auto suppliers and Beaumont Hospital — stood behind her in support.

If not used by Troy, the federal money would go to transit projects in other states, Hodges reminded the seven council.

As metro Detroit wrestled this year with embracing mass transit, the transit center vote increasingly was viewed as a fresh referendum for what direction the region’s transit plans would take.

A decision this month for Detroit to choose high-speed buses over a light-rail system along Woodward Avenue all but halted dreams for light-rail transit. Yet, plans for high-speed train travel across Michigan are firm after allocations by both the federal and state government this year, Amtrak officials said.

The Troy land where the center was to be reverts to the original owner, Farmington Hills-based developer Grand Sakwa.