Category Archives: News

Lawmakers Accelerate Northern Michigan Rail

AUGUST 15, 2022 |AUTHOR: JAMES BRUCKBAUER

ESSENTIAL STUDY FUNDED

The effort to connect people and businesses in northern Michigan to the rest of the state and country with modern passenger train service reached a huge milestone recently with new funding through state and federal agencies.

In July, Michigan state lawmakers, led by northern Michigan’s Senator Wayne Schmidt, included $1

million to advance the northern Michigan passenger rail Phase II planning study in the State of Michigan’s 2023 Labor and Economic Opportunity budget.

Then, just last week, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg announced that the U.S. Department of Transportation would support the Phase II study by providing the remaining $1.3 million through the Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) grant program.

The grant was awarded to the Cadillac/Wexford Transit Authority, which will work in partnership with Groundwork and a team of partners to complete the planning study.

The boost of new funding is a major milestone in the long-term effort to bring passenger rail service—and related economic development—to towns all along the north-south route and give families and workers a safe, environmentally friendly way to travel throughout the state while also reducing cars on our highways.

This planning study builds on work completed over the past several years to restore passenger service to the Traverse City area. In 2018, Groundwork and many other partners completed an initial feasibility study that explored what it would take to get trains up and running along an active state-owned railroad corridor that runs from southeast Michigan to the Traverse City and Petoskey areas.

The study showed that the proposed service is economically viable, and since the study’s release, the state has been improving the tracks for freight and potential future passenger service. In 2019 and 2021, state lawmakers approved funding to repair tracks near Traverse City. Then, in 2022, the Michigan Department of Transportation was awarded a $21 million federal railroad grant to repair tracks just north of Ann Arbor.

The next stage planning study would identify and prioritize improvements needed along the corridor to maximize freight and passenger opportunities, which could include crossing signal and track upgrades, safety technology, potential bridge replacements, community-specific station needs, and equipment.

The Phase II study will also develop a business plan for passenger service—updating the project’s market and ridership forecasts and laying out the stations and schedule of service. The study’s result will be a vision and plan for how the service will work. The study team will also look at changes in supply chains, so that Michigan businesses along the route can have more efficient and affordable shipping connections to the rest of the world.

Public engagement will be an essential part of the planning process, and the study will offer a great opportunity for residents and travelers in communities on the route to shape future train service they want to see and use. Over the next year or so, we will conduct surveys and hold events all along the line to get your feedback. Towns on the railroad include Petoskey, Kalkaska, Traverse City, Kingsley, Cadillac, Clare, Mt. Pleasant, Alma, Owosso, Durand, Howell, Ann Arbor, and a potential route to Detroit.

Getting a 240-mile train line up and running is no small task. There are many environmental standards, safety regulations, and engineering guidelines that must be followed to make the project a reality. The next 18 months are crucial to the project, and we’re hopeful this will lead to the beginning stages of service within five years.

Stay tuned for more info and look for ways you can get involved.

Take Action Against Late Trains!

A message from Rail Passengers Association

“Poor service and bad dispatching practices from many host railroads are causing chronic and excessive delays for millions of riders who rely on the Amtrak system. In 2021 alone, freight trains caused 900,000 minutes of delay to Amtrak passengers—equivalent to traveling to the moon and back 100 times!

Interference by freight trains is the most common source of delay for Amtrak passengers and the largest cause of poor on-time performance of Amtrak trains. If we want the trains to run on time, we need to ensure these freight railroads follow existing legal requirements to give priority to passenger trains and run their systems on time.

We need you to ask your elected officials to hold host railroads accountable. Help us protect passengers’ right to on-time trains!”

Head over to RPA’s page to sign on to a letter informing our Senators and Representatives! 

MDOT 2023-2027 Transportation Program

The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) Five-Year Transportation Program (5YTP) is a state-required document that presents a high-level overview of planned investments in transportation programs and projects over a five-year period. Produced annually, each 5YTP overlaps across a four-year interval, while adding a fifth year of projects. This document provides information on investments for the five-year period spanning 2023-2027.

 

 

MDOT public open houses July 26 and 28 – New Detroit facility

MDOT public open houses July 26 and 28 to discuss the New Center Intermodal Facility (NCIF) in Detroit 

Detroit, Mich. – The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) is hosting a virtual and in-person open house on the upcoming New Center Intermodal Facility (NCIF) in Detroit. NCIF is a proposed project that would combine an intercity bus station with the existing Amtrak train station at M-1 (Woodward Avenue) and Baltimore Street in the New Center neighborhood of Detroit. 

Who:
Interested residents
Community leaders
Local businesses
MDOT staff and consultants  

Virtual open house:
Tuesday, July 26, 2022
5:30 – 7:30 p.m.
Click here to join the Zoom virtual open house
Join by phone
312-626-6799
Meeting ID: 849 6980 0747
Passcode: 174900

In-person open houses:
Thursday, July 28, 2022
8 – 9:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Fisher Building
3011 W Grand Blvd.
Detroit, MI 48202

Please note that I-94 will be closed, impacting access routes to the Fisher Building.

Accessibility:
Accommodations can be made for persons who require mobility, visual, hearing, written, or other assistance for participation. Large print materials, auxiliary aids or the services of interpreters, signers, or readers are available upon request. Please contact Orlando Curry at 517-241-7462 or complete Form 2658 for American Sign Language (ASL) located on the Title VI webpage: https://www.Michigan.gov/MDOT/Programs/Title-VI. Requests should be made at least five days prior to the meeting date. Reasonable efforts will be made to provide the requested accommodation or an effective alternative, but accommodations may not be guaranteed. 

Project information:
The current Amtrak train station and Howard Street intercity bus station have become expensive to maintain due to their age and are not up to standards for accessibility and safety. The NCIF will establish a regional transportation hub providing multimodal access and convenient connectivity with a focus on meeting the needs of disadvantaged communities. It will provide high-quality passenger amenities and public space improvements to enhance the customer and pedestrian experience in the project area.

Public input:
MDOT is currently seeking public input to discuss how the NCIF best serve the community. The virtual open house will be recorded and posted on the project website along with an online survey to provide feedback. Comments can be submitted via an online comment form, e-mail, phone, and in person at the public meeting. 

Monica Monsma
MDOT Environmental Services Section
425 West Ottawa St.
P.O. Box 30050
Lansing, MI 48909
517-335-4381

2022 Michigan Rail Conference: Aug 1-3

Celebrating its 10th year, the Michigan Rail Conference returns to the Upper Peninsula. Convening at Bay College in Escanaba, the conference opens with the traditional Student Scholarship Golf Outing and reception on August 1, continues with the main program on August 2, and winds up with field visits on August 3.

 Highlights include of the program include: 

  • Peter Anastor (MDOT Office of Rail) will join Rick Harnish (High Speed Rail Alliance) and Brian Buchanan from WATCO to give us a Michigan update. 
  • Discussing next steps for PTC will be Amtrak’s Chris Jagodzinski, along with John Rickoff (Lake State Railway) and Rachel Klumpp (Canadian National). 
  • Amtrak’s Director of Host Railroads, Lizabeth Brubeck, will join Thomas Fryer (AB Rail) and Dan Schulte (Quandel Consultants) to speak about improving on-time-performance. 
  • A familiar face, Tim Hoeffner (now with Quandel Consulting), along with Nikkie Johnson (MDOT Passenger & Freight Development Manager), and Pasi Lautala (Michigan Tech Rail Program) will discuss funding opportunities in the infrastructure bill. 
  • FRA Deputy Administrator Jennifer Mitchell is the keynote speaker. 

The Conference is a “hybrid” affair this year — you can attend in person or virtually.  

CONFERENCE AGENDA & PROGRAM 

CONFERENCE FLYER

REGISTER HERE