Amtrak stop proposed for Ypsilanti’s Depot Town

From The Ann Arbor News:

amtrakjpg-cc780a4dab2d5799Ypsilanti and Amtrak are discussing plans for a train stop in Depot Town.

The stop would be part of Amtrak’s Wolverine line, which runs from Chicago to Pontiac with southeast Michigan stops in Ann Arbor, Dearborn, Detroit, Birmingham and Royal Oak.

In a letter to City Council, the city’s lobbyist, Kirk Profit, wrote that Amtrak is interested in having a train stop in Depot Town, and a letter expressing formal support for the idea is expected sometime in December.

Profit wrote that the state’s passage of a transportation package “clears one of the hurdles necessary for moving forward with the Amtrak stop in Ypsilanti.”

Several city officials also confirmed the plans.

“We’ve been meeting with Amtrak and MDOT on getting the train to stop here,” said Council Member Pete Murdock on Sunday. “We expect to get a response from them very soon.”

But the deal is far from done.

City officials have hesitated to release details. On Friday, City Manager Ralph Lange wrote in an email to the Ann Arbor News, “There is no announcement to be made at this time.” And on Saturday, Mayor Amanda Edmonds told The Ann Arbor News a Facebook post from The Depot Town Merchant’s Association stating that the “train is coming” wasn’t true.

On Sunday, Lange underscored in another email that there are no confirmed plans for a commuter rail line or Amtrak stop.

“At this time, the city of Ypsilanti does not have any confirmation of either rail stops,” Lange wrote.

Although the discussion is moving further along than it has at any point since the train quit stopping in Depot Town in the 1980s, a variety of issues still must be addressed.

It isn’t clear how much the project will cost. But the Ypsilanti Downtown Development Authority agreed to bond to cover a large portion of the expenses. That agreement is part of a larger deal in which the city will continue to fund the DDA in Depot Town. That deal, however, isn’t approved yet. Council will vote on it Tuesday at its meeting.

And the DDA”s bonding won’t cover all the costs.

“That’s one piece in the puzzle in putting together a partnership to get this done,” Murdock said.

The city would build a new platform for the train, though there aren’t any drawings or conceptual plans for it. And there are questions over parking, traffic, site plans and other infrastructure issues that need to be addressed.

In his letter to Council, Profit also stated that improvements need to be made to crossings in neighboring townships, and though that expense would be covered by the state.

A proposed commuter rail line that would run between Ann Arbor Detroit could potentially also use the stop, but the project has stalled. The newly formed Detroit-are Regional Transit Authority will ask voters in November 2016 to approve a new tax to fund the line’s operations, according to the A2D Rail Alliance website. Edmonds said the city is continuing to urge the RTA to make a commuter rail line with an Ypsilanti stop a priority.

“An Amtrak rail stop as well as passenger rail to Detroit have been city-wide goals for a very long time. City officials are working very hard with state officials to make this a reality,” Lange wrote.