First train pulls out of new Dearborn Amtrak station

From Detroit Free Press:

Rev. John Koski, associate pastor of Springwells Church in Dearborn, waves as the trains departs.(Photo: Eric Lawrence, Detroit Free Press)
Rev. John Koski, associate pastor of Springwells Church in Dearborn, waves as the trains departs.(Photo: Eric Lawrence, Detroit Free Press)

As Wolverine Train No. 351 to Chicago left Dearborn this morning, the Rev. John Koski was there, waving as it pulled away from the platform after picking up 68 passengers at the new John D. Dingell Transit Center shortly after 7 a.m.

Koski, 64, of Dearborn and associate pastor of the city’s Springwells Church, was impressed.

“This is going to be a great place,” he said, noting its proximity on Michigan Avenue near Evergreen to The Henry Ford and a local bike path. “This is going to be a great asset to Dearborn.”

Koski said he was also at the station to “dedicate this to the Lord” ahead of an open house planned for 4-6 p.m. Monday.

The federally funded, $28.2 million, 16,000-square-foot center is designed as an intermodal passenger rail station on the Chicago-Detroit/Pontiac. It’s near the Rouge River Gateway Greenway Trail that connects to the University of Michigan-Dearborn and Henry Ford College campuses, and a pedestrian bridge should make it easy for passengers to enter the Henry Ford and Greenfield Village, Dearborn city spokeswoman Mary Laundroche has said.

The station, which features a mosaic of blue tiles stretching out in rays and stars and smaller green arches designed by local students, also has a number of interesting features, including heat lamps in a mostly enclosed waiting area outside. And the platform itself can adjust so the distance to the train is less for those boarding or move to accommodate wider loads passing through, according to Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari.

A Tim Hortons also is being completed near the station.

It’s the third train station to open in Michigan in recent months. In October, the long-delayed $6.4 million Troy Transit Center and the $6.1 million Vernon J. Ehlers Amtrak Station opened in Grand Rapids opened for business.

This morning, the lobby of the new Dearborn station at 21201 Michigan Ave., which is about two miles west of the old station, was filled with riders, many of them who had visited Niagara Falls as part of a tour group.

Gary King, 54, of Ridgway, Ill., called the station gorgeous, while Sherri Ulbrich, 72, who was traveling with her husband Bob Cox, of St. Charles, Mo,, noted with a smile that the temperature could be warmer.

But Debbie Williams, 43, of Riverview marveled at the packed lobby.

“I’ve never seen it this full,” she said, describing the new station as an improvement. “The old station could fit in (this lobby). … It’s probably a little overwhelming compared to the last one. I had to make sure I was in the right place.”

Williams said she was traveling to Chicago to see a Bob Seger concert with a friend.

Patrick Socia, 58, of Texas Township near Kalamazoo, was headed home. He works for Quicken Loans in Detroit and travels back and forth regularly.

He takes the train more often when gas prices are high.

“You can plug in, do your work. It’s comfortable, not as ugly as a bus,” he said.

Hyginia Malinowski, 54, who recently moved to Dearborn from Williamsburg, Va., after her husband got a job with Ford, was traveling to Chicago with her friend, Susan Smith, 56, of Basel, Switzerland.

She was a bit anxious about the trip after learning that a man with possible mental health issues had been accused of stabbing four people Friday on a train heading to Port Huron, but she noted that “what are the chances it would happen again?”

This trip would mark her first in Dearborn.

“Everybody tells us it’s the best way to go,” she said.