Category Archives: Action alerts

These are items that we are asking members to take action upon.

High Speed Rail in Michigan could become a reality if the State Senate acts

From the Detroit Free Press

The benefits to Metro Detroit of intercity passenger rail and commuter rail service are clear — economic development, environmental improvement, affordable connections between our communities and convenient travel to and from home and work.

The sticking point has been how to pay for it. Until now.

Successful funding and completion of these projects will mean trains hitting 110 m.p.h. on more than 200 miles of track along the Detroit-to-Chicago corridor — ranked by transportation planners as one of the most viable high speed rail routes outside of the coasts.

The Michigan Department of Transportation estimates they could complete the needed upgrades in less than 24 months. Once completed, metro Detroiters could zip to Chicago in four hours or less, shaving 1.5 hours off the current trip.

The corridor will also have three new or upgraded train stations, paid for with the first round of high speed rail grants.

Michigan competed successfully against other states for this money. The Federal Rail Administration warned that states needed to show political support for their existing passenger rail systems and a viable way to fund the local match money to draw the federal funds.

Fortunately, the Michigan legislature showed support for Michigan’s existing passenger rail system. For the first time in years, FY 2011 budgets passed by the state Senate and House fully funded Michigan’s existing passenger rail program from the outset. These commitments strengthened Michigan’s high speed rail grant application and helped us draw the $161 million in federal money for Michigan’s high speed rail route.

Moreover, the newly elected governors of Ohio and Wisconsin have pledged to reject almost $1.3 billion of federal high speed rail grants. When those grants are reallocated, Michigan could cash in.

The second opportunity is legislation — HB 6484 — introduced by Rep. Wayne Schmidt, R-Traverse City. This bill would help pay for our portion of the required federal match for high speed rail and other similar projects being developed. It’s critical that the state senate pass this bill and the governor sign it into law.

These funding opportunities could put our state on track. It’s a game changer for Michigan. Republicans and Democrats, chambers of commerce, labor, local governments and environmental groups are now speaking the same language.

The window of opportunity is closing. Urge your state senator to support HB 6484 so we can draw $161 million in federal rail funds (and perhaps more) and start building the regional rail we’ve talked about for so long.

Guest column: Michigan lawmakers must act to secure $161 million for fast passenger rail service

From The Grand Rapids Press

Grand Rapids is on the verge of a passenger rail renaissance that promises to accelerate economic development, boost tourism, help the environment and better connect Grand Rapidians with the rest of the state and the nation.

In order to make that happen, state senators must approve legislation securing $161 million in federal rail funds to start building the fast passenger rail service we’ve talked about for so long.

Legislation currently before the state Senate — HB 6484 — would fund Michigan’s required state match for the federal high speed rail funding. If the state Senate fails to pass this bill Michigan will allow $161 million to slip away. That would hinder the possibility of high speed connections on the Chicago-Detroit corridor and miss the opportunity to strengthen passenger rail travel to Grand Rapids.

We must urge our state senators to pass this bill.

With the federal funding, Michigan will purchase and upgrade 135 miles of track between Dearborn and Kalamazoo. Plans also include three new or improved train stations along the way.

Successful funding and completion of these projects means trains hitting 110 mph on more than 200 miles of track along southern Michigan’s corridor. This is a game-changing opportunity for our state. Republicans and Democrats, labor, local governments, chambers of commerce, and environmental groups are now on the same page.

Meanwhile, Grand Rapids is doing its part.

In early November, the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) approved $850,000 for a new Amtrak station, which will help secure a $3.8 million federal grant. The new facility will transform the Amtrak service from Chicago into a more efficient system by alleviating congestion and speeding arrival into the station.

The DDA’s contribution is one way of showing commitment required by the Federal Rail Administration to be considered for federal funding. The state, as well, must also show political and financial support for existing passenger rail systems. That’s why it is so crucial that the state Senate approve this bill before the end of the year.

Demonstrating such enthusiasm also may help Michigan get funds that other states are turning down.

The newly elected governors of Wisconsin and Ohio are rejecting almost $1.3 billion in federal high speed rail grants. Those funds will be redistributed “in a professional way in places where the money can be well spent,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

There’s no reason that place can’t be Michigan. And no reason the State Senate shouldn’t enthusiastically say, “Yes” to Michigan and pass HB 6484.

Rick Chapla is vice president of business development at the Right Place, Inc. in Grand Rapids.

Source: http://www.mlive.com/opinion/grand-rapids/index.ssf/2010/11/guest_column_michigan_lawmaker.html

MARP Action Alert! Write your state senator now to urge passage of HB 6484‏

ACTION ITEM – HB 6484

HB 6484 passed out of the state House of Representatives Nov. 10, 2010.  This bill authorizes up to $100 million of state construction bonds to be used to cover the necessary state match requirement to receive the $160 million federal high-speed rail grant awarded to Michigan’s Detroit to Chicago passenger rail corridor late last month.

In addition to providing funds for our grant match, the bill also would allow for funds to be made available for other state passenger rail infrastructure projects, whether that be to match future federal awards, support new commuter or light rail projects, or fund passenger rail infrastructure needs along Michigan’s other rail corridors.

It is critical that this bill pass the state Senate when they reconvene in December in order for Michigan to receive the federal HSR money and fund other passenger rail projects being planned in the state.  Please contact your state Senator and ask them to support HB 6484. 

Find your Senator here: http://senate.michigan.gov/SenatorInfo/find-your-senator.htm)

Once you have contacted your state senator, next contact State Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop. He is responsible for calling the bill to the Senate floor for a vote. 

Here is a letter template you can use:

November 15, 2010

The Honorable <your Senator’s first name, last name>
State Senator
State Capitol
P.O. Box 30036
Lansing, MI 48909-7536

Re:      Please Support HB 6484 – the Rail Bonding bill

Dear Senator <your Senator’s last name>:

I write to encourage you to support HB 6484.  This bill – introduced by Representative Wayne Schmidt – authorizes up to $100 million of state construction bonds to be used to cover the necessary state match requirement to receive the $160 million federal high-speed rail grant awarded to Michigan’s Detroit to Chicago passenger rail corridor late last month.

In addition to providing funds for our grant match, the bill also would allow for funds to be made available for other state passenger rail infrastructure projects, whether that be to match future federal awards, support new commuter or light rail projects, or fund passenger rail infrastructure needs along Michigan’s other rail corridors.

It passed the House with bi-partisan support on November 10, 2010 with 67 voting in favor.

Please support HB 6484. 

Sincerely,

<your name and complete postal address>