Ann Arbor-to-Traverse rail feasibility study moves forward with funding

Now that funding for a feasibility study is in place, an Ann Arbor-to-Traverse City railroad line is one step closer to reality.

Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities, an advocacy group based in Traverse City, is leading an initiative to bring back regular passenger train service between southeast and northwest Michigan, with a goal of having it operational by 2025. Groundwork partnered with the Bay Area Transit Authority to apply for federal funds that the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) distributes to regional transit authorities.

Concentrate reported on the feasibility study in August 2016, but funding for the study has only recently been firmed up. Because Groundwork is collaborating with many partners including MDOT and regional transit authorities, it took some time to have them all sign off on the study, according to Groundwork program director Jim Lively.

Lively says tracks are already in place for the entire route, so work would focus on upgrading and improving the tracks and amenities along the route.

Public input sessions will be held at the beginning and again at the end of the feasibility study. Communities along the route that will be surveyed include Petoskey, Traverse City, Cadillac, Mount Pleasant, Alma, Ann Arbor, and possibly Brighton. Lively says the Groundwork team is leaving room for surveying other communities along the southern portion of the route.  

Lively says the study will help all partners in the initiative learn what the demand is for this type of rail and analyze the demographics of potential passengers. They also need to decide how much to charge for tickets and what factors will influence how much passengers will be willing to spend, such as the speed of the trains and what the transportation experience as a whole will be like.

"Our ideal goal would be daily service from northeast to southeast Michigan, but it might take some time to get to that," Lively says.
 
Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor based in Ypsilanti Township. You may reach her at sarahrigg1@gmail.com.
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