Michigan Land Use Institute

Thriving Communities / News & Views / Articles from 1995 to 2012 / Getting Michigan Back on Track - with Rail!

Getting Michigan Back on Track - with Rail!

Panel describes three proposals

July 18, 2011 | By Jim Lively
Great Lakes Bulletin News Service

The automobile state is taking important steps toward reinvesting in passenger rail – and Michigan residents are clearly ready to get on board.

More than 80 people came to the Traverse Area District Library last week to learn about three passenger rail projects demonstrating a new commitment to connect cities, create more transportation options for families, and stimulate job growth.

The Passenger Rail Forum was sponsored by The Michigan Land Use Institute and the Grand Vision Rail Committee and was supported by members of the new Trans4M statewide transportation coalition.

A panel of experts described the three projects proposed in southern Michigan:

  • The M-1 Woodward Light Rail Line was presented by Megan Owens, executive director of Transit Riders United. This $450 million project will ultimately run nine miles from downtown Detroit to Eight Mile Road along Detroit’s busiest corridor and serve as a transportation option and an economic development tool.
  • The WALLY Commuter Rail Line connecting Washtenaw and Livingston Counties – and the cities of Ann Arbor and Howell – was described by Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners Chairman Conan Smith. This project is expected to relieve congestion on US-23 by moving 1,200 people daily and promote economic development.
  • Michigan Department of Transportation Director Kirk Steudle described new efforts to connect Detroit to Chicago with higher speed passenger rail service. Michigan is approved for nearly $200 million in federal funds for track improvements between Kalamazoo and Dearborn to increase train speeds to 110 mph.

MLUI Policy Specialist James Bruckbauer said that, while there is great interest in seeing passenger rail connect Traverse City to the southern portions of the state by train, Thursday’s event at the library was more about laying the groundwork for a comprehensive rail system in the state. Mr. Bruckbauer pointed to the overwhelming interest in connecting northwest lower Michigan to both Detroit and Chicago in the 2008 Grand Vision process; as well as the strong interest demonstrated at last summer’s Michigan By Rail forum, held in Traverse City, focusing on passenger rail.

Jim Lively is the Michigan Land Use Institute’s program director. Reach him at jim@mlui.org.

Michigan Land Use Institute

148 E. Front Street, Suite 301
Traverse City, MI 49684-5725
p (231) 941-6584 
e comments@mlui.org