U.S. 23 commuter line looks to expand, create rail authority

The proposed commuter rail line along U.S. 23 between Ann Arbor and Howell is looking at adding another stop in Hamburg Township and possibly expanding to Saline or Monroe.
The Coalition for Mass Transit, the group of Ann Arbor-area leaders pushing for the project, has also established a committee structure to set up the commuter rail line and is taking steps to form a rail authority to manage it. Mike Cicchella, the Northfield Township Supervisor and member of the Coalition for Mass Transit, said the group has received good feedback on a $1 million federal grant to fund the project.
"They feel it's very well put together," Cicchella says.
The start date for service on the line has been pushed back to later this fall from June, but another stop in Hamburg Township, Livingston County's largest municipality, is being considered. Saline and Monroe have also expressed interest in expanding the commuter rail to their cities.
"The rail runs both ways," Cicchella says. "It's not just between Howell and Ann Arbor."
Leaders from the Ann Arbor area are pushing for a commuter rail line north of the city along U.S. 23 into Livingston County where large portions of the expressway have been over capacity since 2000. The Michigan Department of Transportation has pledged $400,000 to make improvements to the track and the Coalition for Mass Transit, the group behind the proposal, is applying for up to $1 million in federal funding. Fares are expected to offset the rest of the cost for $1.5-million project.

The short commuter rail route would utilize existing tracks between the Ann Arbor’s north side and the Livingston County border just south of Brighton. A temporary station would be set up with near a large parking lot near Livingston County’s border with Washtenaw County. Another temporary station is planned for Plymouth Road in Ann Arbor with buses that would take passengers to several points throughout the city, such as downtown and the University of Michigan Hospital. A third station on Chilson Road in Howell is also being considered.
A three-car passenger train would make six trips during the morning rush hour and another six trips in the afternoon/evening rush hour. Each stainless steel bi-level car could carry between 500 to 600 people per trip. A train would take about 20 minutes one way, saving commuters about 45 minutes in transport time, officials say.

It is estimated the cost to passengers could be kept in line with what they pay for gas. The city also has an enthusiastic partner in Great Lakes Central Railroad, which is willing to set up the service and provide the trains.
Source: Mike Cicchella, Northfield Township Supervisor and member of the Coalition for Mass Transit

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