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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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M-1 Rail construction to start July 28

From the Detroit Free Press:

m1constructionmapDowntown business owners and commuters are in for a four-month adjustment to their routines once construction begins late next month on M-1 Rail, the 3.3-mile streetcar line that will stretch from downtown to New Center.

M-1 officials announced that construction will begin on July 28, 2014 and will require the closure of Woodward between Adams Street and Campus Martius for about 120 days. Crews will be reconstructing the roadway and laying rail for the streetcar line.

It will mean detours for commuters who take Woodward north, but will also likely mean less foot traffic along that segment of Woodward, where pop-up shops, party stores, retailers, apartments, lofts, restaurants and bars have gone up in renovated buildings in anticipation of downtown’s rebirth between Campus Martius and Midtown.

Several downtown business operators were keeping the long view in mind Friday, saying that while they know the shutdown will hurt for a bit, what’s more important is the specter of a revived downtown served by streetcars that attract more visitors and business redevelopment.

Stan Nelson, owner of Red Rose Florist at 1425 Woodward, said it’s been a struggle to make a go of it since he opened his shop downtown a decade ago in a storefront on Washington Boulevard. He moved to Woodward five years ago and said he’s looking forward to a wave of growth once the streetcars are running.

“The M-1 Rail can only help,” he said Friday afternoon at the flower shop. “This is an exciting time. But it’s been a struggle. It’s just good to see that things are steadily growing, and we’re glad we had the vision to be a part of it.”

He said the store already does marketing through churches and other organizations to let potential customers know about services there because foot traffic on Woodward isn’t sufficient now to keep the store going. The shop has also focused more on online sales.

Cross streets such as Grand River and Clifford will remain open as much as possible, expect when crews have to build roadway or lay tracks and the like, M-1 organizers said. Sidewalks along Woodward will remain open throughout.

M-1 organizers said detours will follow parallel downtown streets such as Washington Boulevard to the west and John R to the east. Many city and suburban bus detours around the project also will follow Washington, putting the routes a bit closer to the Rosa Parks Transit Center, the downtown bus hub. DDOT already has changed its routes by removing bus stops that once were on Woodward between Adams and Campus Martius.

The $140-million rail line is scheduled to be up and running by late 2016, with 16 curbside stops and four in medians on the route between Congress and West Grand Boulevard in the area anchored by the old General Motors headquarters and the Fisher Building. It’s being funded largely with corporate and philanthropic donations, although the federal government has granted some money to the project.

The work will be the most visible sign of progress yet for a project that backers say will help lay the groundwork for future investment in mass transit in metro Detroit and spur redevelopment along Woodward. The project has been hampered by scheduling delays and, most recently, a $12 million funding shortfall that M-1 says it will not let delay construction.

“Over the next thirty days our team will be pounding the pavement to make everyone who lives, works and visits the Woodward corridor aware of what they should expect from track construction and how to navigate around it once we begin on July 28,” Paul Childs, M-1 Rail’s chief operating officer, said in a statement. “We are moving quickly to provide information and resources to businesses and residents along the corridor. There will be a business support program that we will introduce in the coming weeks along with more details about construction activities and timelines as they are finalized.”

That will include two upcoming public meetings with businesses and others impacted by the construction: July 1 for Midtown companies at the Max M. Fisher Music Theater, 3711 Woodward, 8–9:30 a.m; and for the Central Business District at The Madison, 1555 Broadway , 6–8 p.m. July 2.

At D:Hive, a Woodward storefront that offers a downtown welcome center, resources for visitors and assistance to those looking to start businesses in the city, Jeanette Pierce said she’s hoping that the shutdown will have a side effect of getting people to take note of other parts of downtown they may not see if they stick to Woodward most of the time.

“Sure, it’s going to be inconvenient, but I think that the staff at M-1 has done a great job of reaching out,” said Pierce, D:Hive’s director of community relations, crediting M-1 with working for more than a year to prepare businesses along and near Woodward for the construction project.

Pierce said many businesses along that segment of Woodward are focusing on the long-term positive effect of expanded mass transit making it easier to get around two areas of the city rebounding after decades of disinvestment.

“With any construction project, whether it’s road repair or something like this, it is slightly annoying, but it’s exciting,” she said. “At D:Hive, we’re going to be working on encouraging people to explore the detour and visit businesses. … I think this might actually give people an opportunity to get out of their car and walk a little bit, and when you walk you notice a lot more stuff, and actually fall more in love with the city.”

More information on M-1 and its construction schedule is available at 800-511-3931, M-1 Rail’s Facebook and Twitter accounts and at M-1 Rail’s office at 1426 Woodward, Monday–Friday, 9 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.


Two groups host Toledo rail passenger forum

nopraeventlogoThe Northwest Ohio Passenger Rail Association and Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments are hosting a passenger rail forum on Oct. 7 at 11 a.m. The event will be held at the Toledo Club, 235 14th St. Toledo, OH 43604.

The forum will bring together community and business leaders and rail supporters to discuss issues and opportunities affecting rail transit in the region. Planned speakers include John Robert Smith, co-chairman of advocacy group Transportation for America; Tim Porter, chairman of the Northwest Ohio Passenger Rail Association; Bill Thomas, CEO of Downtown Toledo Development Corp.; and Jerry Wicks of the Ohio Higher Education Rail Network.

Registration for non-members is $33 and $20 for students. For more information or to register, go to

Troy mayor recalled for opposing transit center

From the Detroit Free Press:

Janice Daniels

Troy Mayor Janice Daniels said being recalled from office is a burden removed.

The day after Troy voters  removed the controversial mayor from office, Daniels expressed relief at the outcome. The recall passed Tuesday,  52%-48%.

“I’m going to have a great burden lifted off of my shoulders because I won’t be faced with this relentless, merciless, vicious, unwarranted attacks on my person that would have probably gone on for the next three years had I won the election, so it’s probably for the best,” Daniels said in brief comments late Wednesday afternoon.

Daniels, a tea party favorite, was elected to office last year and has been embroiled in a string of controversies regarding her comments about gay people, her opposition to accepting federal funds for a transit center and her public dressing-down of the former city manager.

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