by John Amrhein, Michigan State University Extension
Part one of this Michigan State University Extension article introduced a feasibility study of passenger rail in northern Michigan being conducted by the Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities and discussed current passenger rail service in Michigan. The potential value of such a service becomes clear as we review some of the points made by Program Director Jim Lively in a presentation to the Northern Michigan Counties Association.
The State of Michigan developed its first statewide rail plan in 2011. The executive summary provides an overview of the current status of rail service in Michigan, cites the benefits of rail in Michigan, and makes recommendations for moving the state forward.
Lively also pointed out that there are over 100,000 college students at 6 colleges along the A2TC corridor being studied. Great potential exists for student travel from home to college and between colleges on the A2TC route.
Significant economic development is also anticipated along the A2TC corridor. As of December 13, 2016, 17 local government bodies and business associations have signed on as supporters and are listed on the Groundwork Center’s website. The website also cites a 2009 study by Grand Valley State University that “found that Michigan cities with once-a-day train service boosted their downtown economies by up to $45 million each year.
Additional benefits of passenger rail service would include increased tourism, providing business travel options and attracting talent to the state.
Plans are to complete the study by fall of 2017, and to also do outreach and community engagement during 2017. The study will include analysis of track status, and cost estimates for needed improvements, analysis of station status and support infrastructure at proposed stops, estimates of service demand and potential revenue, funding and finance options, estimates of economic benefit to the communities along the route, and proposals for a management and operating structure and potential public/private partnerships to operate the line.
Excursion trains are being planned for summer and fall of 2018 to demonstrate the potential. Rail improvements and funding would likely be addressed in 2018 and beyond.
Phase two of the A2TC effort would bring further engineering study between 2018 and 2021 with weekend service beginning in 2012. Securing equipment would occur in phase 3 in 2022-2024 with regular passenger service beginning in 2025.
If you are interested in learning more, or keeping up to date on A2TC progress, check out the A2TC page on the Groundwork Center website. To learn more about the Northern Michigan Counties Association, email John Amrhein at firstname.lastname@example.org.