$2.8M federal grant puts 'stake in the ground' for $100M Fuller Road transit center in Ann Arbor
The grant — given as part of what was touted as a "major announcement" this afternoon in Detroit with U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood — will be used toward completing a preliminary engineering and environmental study at the site, just north of the University of Michigan Hospitals.
Angela J. Cesere | AnnArbor.com
The city already has designed the transit center with partners that include the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor Transportation Authority and state and federal transportation officials, Cooper said.
Those plans have been through city planning and the first phase could be in front of City Council in the coming month. The first phase of the plan includes a 977-space parking deck, bicycle parking and space for bus passenger drop-off and pickup.
The next phase includes a new bus and train terminal, and an early step toward that involves the site work that makes it eligible for future funding, Cooper said. Today's announcement makes that possible, he added.
"This is so very important," Cooper said of today's announcement, which also includes $196.5 million toward improvements of the railway between Dearborn and Kalamazoo.
Mayor John Hieftje agreed, saying that the funding increases the likelihood that there will be more federal support for this Ann Arbor transportation project.
"If you look at the history of the Federal Rail Administration funding, they're putting a stake in the ground here," Hieftje said.
The improvements will make increased commuter rail use possible, Hieftje said, which in turn will have many regional benefits.
"If we can get that going, we're going to experience the effects of transit-oriented development (in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti)," he said.
The Ann Arbor Amtrak station is the busiest in Michigan, according to recent reports. However,the single track at the existing facility means that trains can block other service. A new passing track would be built as part of the new train station, increasing capacity along the Detroit-to-Chicago line.
Rail improvements will allow trains to travel at 110 mph for the 235-mile stretch of track, according to a news release.
The funding coming to Michigan is being announced as the government releases $2 billion in transportation funding, following $10 billion in requests for that funding.
The money is from Recovery Act funds, according to a news release from Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Carl Levin. The money had been granted to Florida, but it was rejected by that state's administration so it became available for other projects.
According to the news release, "Michigan will also benefit from $268.2 million in funding for the purchase of 48 high-speed passenger rail cars and seven high-speed locomotives for service on eight corridors in Michigan, Illinois, Iowa and Missouri."
Initial reaction to the news includes concerns from an Ann Arbor group called "People for Ann Arbor Parks."
According to a news release issued Monday morning, the group says it welcomes new funding for higher-speed and more reliable rail service.
However, the group also raises concerns about the location of the transit center on Fuller Park property.
"There are reasonable alternatives to the use of a part of Fuller Park for either a very large parking structure or a passenger station," according to the release. "... (M)ajor modification and expansion of the existing station site (on Depot Street) are feasible, but have not been evaluated."