From The Ann Arbor News:
The list of sites being considered for a new Amtrak train station in Ann Arbor has been narrowed from eight to three.
The three locations awaiting further review now include a stretch of track along North Main Street next to Argo Pond, the existing Amtrak site on Depot Street, and a parking lot on Fuller Road in front of the University of Michigan Hospital.
The sites were ranked based on the level of access they provide to downtown and other major activity centers such as the U-M Hospital and Central Campus, and the potential for connecting with other forms of public transit such as Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority and U-M buses, and Greyhound.
The project team also took into consideration environmental impacts, accessibility from existing roadways, and whether there’s enough land for station facilities.
With those being the key considerations, the Fuller Road site ranked highest with a score of 8 on a scale from -10 to 10.
The Depot Street site had a score of 6, and the North Main site had a score of zero. All other sites had negative scores.
The city has hired consultant URS Corp. for $824,875 to lead the so-called Ann Arbor Station Environmental Review.
Robert Gorski, project manager from URS Corp., said during a public meeting Tuesday night the study is now entering Phase 2, which will include much more detailed analysis of the three sites, as well as conceptual designs. A final recommendation for a specific site, including a conceptual design, is expected by the end of this year.
The project team found that the North Main site is relatively close to downtown, but a station there would require displacement of some local businesses. And while Main Street is a major roadway, the only access to the tracks is Lakeshore Drive, a private road. There has been some talk of redeveloping the North Main corridor.
“There was a lot of discussion about the opportunity to redevelop this area,” Gorski told residents who attended Tuesday night’s meeting.
The existing Amtrak site on Depot Street also is close to downtown and key activity centers, but it might pose challenges in terms of available space, access to key features, and environmental impacts, the project team found.
It has been noted the area is flood-prone and parking is constrained, though the 14-acre former MichCon site next door remains vacant.
The project team found the Fuller Road site near the U-M Hospital is well positioned in the center of the community, but it has potential environmental concerns related to parks and open space impacts since it’s part of Fuller Park. Gorski said there also are some concerns about the topography, but it’s worth looking at it in greater detail.
The City Council voted unanimously in October to proceed with the current phase of work. A little less than $165,000 is coming from funds the city previously budgeted, with the rest covered by a federal rail grant the city accepted in 2012.
The $2.8 million federal rail planning grant also is expected to cover some additional future expenses if the project moves forward.
Final design of a new Amtrak station is identified as a $2.6 million expense in 2015-16 in the city’s Capital Improvement Plan. Construction of the new station is shown as a separate $44.5 million line item that same year.
Mayor John Hieftje has said he expects 80 percent of the funding to come from the federal government with other local partners potentially contributing funds. Ann Arbor residents get to vote on the project before any construction happens.
At the meeting Tuesday night, the city’s consultants talked about train ridership in Ann Arbor, noting there were roughly 155,000 boardings and deboardings at the Ann Arbor station last year, up about 70 percent from 2003.
According to projections shown at the meeting, that could increase to 969,000 by 2035-2040 if the three daily roundtrips are increased to 10 daily roundtrips. There also are projections showing 516,000 boardings and deboardings from future commuter rail service, potentially pushing total annual ridership up to 1.5 million.
The plan is to design a station with the capacity to handle growing ridership, plus allow dedicated space for buses to pick up and drop off passengers. There also are talks of including secure bicycle parking and maybe even a restaurant.