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Quicken Loans to name Detroit’s M-1 Rail

From The Detroit News:

An artist's rendition of the completed M-1 Rail project.
An artist’s rendition of the completed M-1 Rail project.

The official name of the M-1 Rail project under construction along Woodward Avenue will be decided by Quicken Loans Inc.

Project officials have confirmed the mortgage giant — founded by Detroit businessman Dan Gilbert — secured the naming rights to the 3.3-mile streetcar line “as part of its financial support during fundraising for the project.”

“M-1 Rail is also working on other branding items — including recognition of donors who have sponsored station stops,” said M-1 Rail Chief Operating Officer Paul Childs in a statement. “The process is a dynamic one and will be done in a way that reflects the pride we have in the project and its importance to Detroit.”

No additional information was available. Childs said officials “will provide further details in the future as work progresses.”

The M-1 Rail streetcar line will run from downtown to the New Center area. The $137 million publicly and privately funded line is expected to be operational by fall 2016. Construction on the light rail started in late July.

Quicken receiving the naming rights shouldn’t come as a surprise. The company has given millions to the project and Gilbert is vice chairman of M-1’s board of directors.

Quicken obtaining the naming rights was first reported over the weekend by Crain’s Detroit Business.


New East Lansing CATA center nears completion

From WKAR:

This is an artist's rendering of the future East Lansing Station.
This is an artist’s rendering of the future East Lansing Station.

The Capital Area Transportation Authority will soon unveil its new Multi Modal Gateway in East Lansing.

The station, just south of East Lansing’s existing Amtrak facility will incorporate rail, city, regional and national bus lines in one large modern locale.

The Multi Modal Gateway is slated to open this July, which is earlier than originally expected.

Current State’s Peter Whorf spoke with CATA assistant executive director Debbie Alexander for an on-site update.

Listen to the radio interview at:

Railmark finalizes agreement to run Algoma Central Railway passenger rail service

From a Northern Ontario Tourism press release:

1297524343209_ORIGINALRailmark Canada Ltd. is set to assume the operations of the Algoma Central Railway passenger service. The company, a Canadian subsidiary of Railmark Holdings Inc., recently finalized a set of agreements with CN to acquire assets and take over the Sault-to-Hearst rail line. Railmark has a plan in place to ensure the long-term viability of the transportation link.

For more than 15 years, Railmark has operated in 19 countries around the world, including a significant presence in Ontario and Michigan. The company operates short-line railways and tourist rail expeditions such as dinner and entertainment tours. Railmark also provides rail logistics and mechanical services.

“We see great potential in the ACR passenger service,” said Allen Brown, President and CEO of Railmark. “We look forward to continuing to engage with the regional stakeholders, CN and the Government of Canada to keep the line operating and make it a viable and sustainable operation.”

In September 2014, the ACR Passenger Service Stakeholders Working Group, with consensus from CN, which owns the ACR, undertook a request for proposal (RFP) process to identify a qualified third party to take over the remote passenger line. A number of bids were submitted. After a due diligence process, CN selected Railmark’s proposal to continue operating the remote passenger rail service. In a separate procurement process, Railmark was also chosen by CN to operate the Agawa Canyon Train Tour.

“CN is pleased to have concluded an agreement with Railmark Canada Ltd. to assume operation of the Sault Ste. Marie-to-Hearst, Ontario, passenger train, along with the Agawa Canyon Train Tour,” said Luc Jobin, CN’s Executive Vice-President and Chief Financial Officer. “CN believes Railmark’s passenger train expertise will benefit the operation of both services.”

As part of its bid to operate the ACR passenger rail line, Railmark outlined its plans to increase ridership by expanding the number of offerings while ramping up services and marketing efforts. Specifically, the company intends on adding dining tours and other entertainment-based voyages. By presenting a greater variety of excursions and providing a higher-value purchase for passengers, its business plan sees the remote rail service becoming self-sustaining within five years.

In January 2014, Transport Canada announced its intention to cut its annual investment into the ACR passenger service. The Working Group was then formed to come up with solutions to keep the regional transportation line in operation. The Federal Government later issued a one-year funding extension, which is set to expire March 31, 2015.

Based on an economic impact assessment from BDO Canada, the ACR passenger service currently generates between $38 and $48 million in annual economic activity, supports more than 200 jobs, and generates over $5 million in tax revenue each year. With Railmark’s expansion plans for the ACR, these numbers are expected to increase considerably. The discontinuation of the rail service will result in a significant loss of these current and future benefits, along with and an additional one-time impact on the values of properties located on, or in close proximity to, the rail line in an amount between $60 million and $67 million.

In recent years, the Government of Canada has been investing $2.2 million annually into the remote ACR passenger line. Under Railmark’s proposal, the amount needed from Transport Canada is $7 million over five years, considerably less than previous investments from the ministry. And after the five-year period, Railmark’s business plan calls for an end to public funding as the service becomes self-sustainable.

“The Federal Government has the ability to keep this critical remote service in operation for a relatively limited investment,” said Joe Fratesi, Chair of the Working Group and CAO for the City of Sault Ste. Marie. “With time running out before the March 31 funding deadline, we look forward to hearing back from Transport Canada in the near future on the ministry’s decision to help keep this transportation link in operation. Our MP, Bryan Hayes, has been very helpful at ensuring this critical issue remains top of mind for the government, and his efforts to date are appreciated.”

The Working Group represents a larger committee of concerned regional stakeholders, including the City of Sault Ste. Marie, Sault Ste. Marie Economic Development Corporation, Municipality of Wawa, Town of Hearst, First Nations, Township of Dubreuilville, Tourism Sault Ste. Marie, Algoma Kinniwabi Travel Association, Coalition for Algoma Passenger Trains, and home, cottage and land owners serviced by the ACR line.

For more information on this initiative, please visit

Membership Meeting
March 14, 2015 – Kalamazoo MI

Members Present: Larry Krieg, Jim Wallington, John Langdon, Kay Chase, Robert and Diane Patterson, Jeanie Merckel, Chuck Merckel, Don Monteith, Doug Wilson, Bob Tischbein, Tim Hoeffner, Dick Pekarek, Phil Mange, Jeannie and Wendell Aten, Burton TenBrink, Rich Vavre-Musser, Dan Platz, Cathy Hart, John Cwiek, Don Heydens, Charley Bonnell, Clark Charnetski, Dave VanderBee, Tom Stegink, Kim J. Powell, Barb Spaulding Westcott, Don W. Westcott

Guests: Mark Miller, Steve Charnley, Ken Hart, Shasta Duffey, Rosemary Horvath

Call to Order: Chairman Krieg called the meeting to order at 10:45 a.m.


Appoint Rosemary Horvath acting secretary. Langdon moved, seconded by D. Westcott. Executive Committee approved.

Approve Jan. 10, 2015 membership meeting minutes. Motion by Wallington, seconded by Charnetski. Approved.

Introduction of guest speaker Shasta Duffey, vice president sales and marketing, Grand Elk Railroad, based in Kalamazoo. She drew comparisons between a proposed passenger rail service between Tulsa and Oklahoma City and what could begin in Michigan, between Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo. Freight traffic between Elkhart and Grand Rapids for Grand Elk has increased. Grand Elk owner is WATCO Companies LLC based in Pittsburgh, Kansas. Grand Rapids businesses are growing and requiring more rail line infrastructure. Grand Elk moves about 22,000 cars annually, 80 percent originating in Elkhart, and has plans to build new sidings in Grand Rapids and purchase a building for warehousing to keep up with demand. Duffey also highlighted employment opportunities at Grand Elk and the influence of technology has had on the industry. Freight is the main focus but company is open to needs of the public interested in passenger rail service.
Communication Editor Kay Chase presented Duffey with a complimentary MARP membership.

Accept Treasurer’s Report. J. Cwiek moved, seconded by Wallington. Motion passed.

Chairman Krieg presented Treasurer J. Merckel a $2,500 check from the Michigan Environmental Council to support MARP’s activities in Michigan By Rail initiatives. Activities include promoting the Coast to Coast proposal to create passenger rail service between Holland, Grand Rapids, Lansing and Detroit. Langdon noted the partner agreement specifies MARP volunteers will assist with outreach and public engagement to monitor interests and preferences. Langdon circulated copies of the partner agreement and reminded members participation is needed. Sixteen public events are proposed. (Amended May 16, 2015, John Langdon moved).

Langdon circulated copies of the agreement and said everyone in the organization is needed. He has lined up 16 public events.
The Treasurer reported nine have renewed memberships.

February 2015
Checking Opening balance: $12,966.27
Receipts: 3,500.00
Expenses: 495.69
Closing balance: $16,310.68

Pratt Fund Opening balance: $17,675.59
Closing balance: $18,693.78


MARP tentatively will meet in April at South Lyon in the Detroit Metro area except there may be a conflict with NARP.
May 16 is at Durand during Railroad Days at the Depot. Guest speaker is a retired history teacher. Topic is the Flint/Holly Railroad, among the state’s earliest railroads.
Sept. 5 is the annual MARP meeting in Durand.
Details for remaining months will be announced but dates tentatively set for the third Saturday of the month.

OUTREACH – Chuck Merckel
Event in Fruitport was cancelled. CSX scheduling seems to be holding up printing of Amtrak timetables. Release expected mid April. Commitments by volunteers are required if MARP is to participate in public events handing out Amtrak and other train material. Event sponsors want early commitments so members need to plan ahead. An outreach schedule is available online.

Activities for Amtrak Train Days are underway. Contact your regional chairs to volunteer. The first event is in Toledo for National Train Day May 2. Regional chairs are asked to assist Coordinator Chuck Merckel in recruiting volunteers for specific locations and dates.

Clark Charnetski said the $71 million Indiana Gateway Project will upgrade right-of ways between Porter, Ind. and the Illinois state line. A new universal crossover will be constructed near U.S. Steel in Gary. Pine Yard upgrade is equivalent to third track for four miles. Upgrade in Whiting is important because this connects a third track siding equivalent to five miles. Clark asked members to attend the WALLY meeting in Ann Arbor.
Tim Hoeffner, MDOT Director of Office of Rail, said there will be no noticeable operational improvements expected on the Wolverine route this year. MDOT is considering alternatives to servicing the 14 refurbished commuter cars stored in Owosso. The rail project the cars were intended for is slow to develop. Krieg outlined a timeline starting in 2006. In spite of delays, there is progress, Krieg said. Great Lakes Central, owners of the train cars, has lined up a broker and is promoting leases.

Warren Fritz, West Region Chair, invited members from the western region from the Indiana border to Ludington to meet for five minutes and discuss opportunities.

Meeting adjourned 12:45 P.M. Charley Bonnell moved. Seconded by Burton TenBrink. Approved.
Rosemary Horvath__ ___Laurence J. Krieg
Rosemary Horvath Larry Krieg
Acting Secretary MARP Chairman

Amtrak train stabbings suspect arraigned in Niles; preliminary exam set for Dec. 16

From The Kalamazoo Gazette:

A Saginaw man accused of stabbing four people on an Amtrak train in Niles Friday was arraigned today in Berrien County District Court.

Michael Darnell Williams, 44, was formally charged with four counts of assault with intent to murder, according to the Berrien County Prosecutor’s Office. Each charge carries a maximum penalty of life in prison.

He is being held in the Berrien County Jail on a $1 million bond.

Williams’ preliminary examination has been scheduled for Tuesday, Dec. 16. He is expected to be represented by a court-appointed attorney, according to the prosecutor’s office.

At about 7 p.m. Friday, the Niles Police Department received a report of a man “acting odd and becoming agitated” on board an Amtrak train heading toward Niles and was requested to send officers to investigate.

Niles Police Chief Jim Millin previously said officers who arrived at the depot noticed a “commotion” on one of the train cars as passengers tried to exit quickly. Officers then pushed their way onto the train and confronted Williams, who was armed with a knife.

Williams was subdued with the use of a Taser and was taken into custody, Millin said.

Millin said officers located four victims on the train car who had been cut and stabbed by the suspect. The victims included a train conductor, who remains hospitalized in stable condition, an Amtrak spokesman said Monday.

Since the incident, several family members have expressed concerns about Williams’ mental health, including his sister, Tracy Williams. She told the Saginaw News that Michael Williams is a veteran who she believes was suffering from paranoid hallucinations that made him fear for his life.

Berrien County Assistant Prosecutor Amy Byrd, who is leading the prosecution of Williams, did not immediately respond to an inquiry Wednesday pertaining to whether a psychological evaluation would be conducted on Williams to determine if he was mentally fit to stand trial.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said earlier Monday that Amtrak is assisting Niles Police Department in the investigation and isn’t conducting its own investigation into the incident.

Knives are prohibited on Amtrak trains, and Amtrak police perform random inspections of passenger baggage, the company said in a statement issued to the Kalamazoo Gazette on Monday.

The stabbings occurred on Amtrak train 364, the Blue Water line, which runs between Chicago and Port Huron, and 172 passengers were on board at the time of the incident.


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