I've got one word for you: Logistics.
That's what Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG) and freight train officials are trying to figure out to establish the much anticipated commuter rail line that will connect Detroit, Ann Arbor and Metro Airport.
SEMCOG is working with the three freight railroads (Norfolk Southern, Conrail Shared Assets and Canadian National) that own the tracks between Ann Arbor and Detroit. They are negotiating the costs and conditions of putting passenger trains on freight tracks, identifying when the tracks are needed for freight purposes, when to run passenger service and working out conflicts and associated costs.
Carmine Palombo, director of transportation for SEMCOG, wouldn't say whether the project is still on track to be up and running by the end of this year because the pending talks with the railroads will determine the timeline and costs.
"Overall, I think the project is moving along," Palombo says in an e-mail. "It is a project with a lot of moving parts. We will know more in the next month or two. Our goal continues to be to start service as soon as we can."
The demonstration line would utilize existing tracks with stops at Metro Airport, Detroit, Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti and Dearborn. It’s possible it could also be expanded to connect Royal Oak, Troy/Birmingham and Pontiac.
Source: Carmine Palombo, director of transportation for Southeast Michigan Council of Governments
Writer: Jon Zemke