Commuter rail cars between Ann Arbor and Detroit slated for test runs starting Monday
Ann Arbor officials are welcoming the news that commuter rail cars between Ann Arbor and Detroit are slated for testing starting Monday.
The realization of commuter rail service in Southeast Michigan is something that local officials and many residents have been anticipating for years, and next week's testing of six newly refurbished, bi-level, stainless-steel commuter rail cars is an indication the initiative is making progress.
The Michigan Department of Transportation said in a news release Friday the rail cars will be run all the way from Pontiac to Jackson. It's expected the cars, which were refurbished by Great Lakes Central Railroad in Owosso, eventually will be used by two proposed commuter rail services.
Photo courtesy of MDOT
Because it's strictly a test of the equipment, MDOT officials said the public is not invited to board the train at this time. Amtrak will operate the test train using its own locomotive, while Amtrak, Great Lakes Central Railroad, MDOT consultants, and the Federal Railroad Administration conduct the testing.
According to MDOT, the new rail cars will be tested at normal operating speeds of up to 79 mph through Wednesday as they move from Pontiac to Jackson and back.
Following successful testing, demonstrations of the commuter rail service could be used for special events in the future, MDOT officials said.
At this time, a sustainable funding source for both commuter rail services is not yet programmed. The Southeast Michigan Council of Governments is working on the Ann Arbor-to-Detroit service, and the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority is working on the WALLY service.
Carmine Palombo, SEMCOG's director of transportation programs, could not immediately be reached for comment on Friday.
Palombo told AnnArbor.com earlier this year that SEMCOG and MDOT were working daily — along with the FRA, Federal Transit Administration, Amtrak and various contractors — and he believed demonstration trains could be up and running sometime within 2012.
The rail cars were purchased from the Metra commuter rail system in northeast Illinois before being refurbished. The new seating inside was done by American Seating in Grand Rapids.
MDOT said the cost to refurbish each car was about $310,000, with funding provided by state and federal sources.
The promise of commuter rail service between Ann Arbor and Detroit, as well as high-speed passenger rail from Detroit to Chicago, are reasons why Ann Arbor officials have been working over the last several years toward the goal of building a new Amtrak station on Fuller Road.
Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for AnnArbor.com. Reach him at email@example.com or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to AnnArbor.com's email newsletters.