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Posted on Tue, Aug 18, 2009 : 1:03 p.m.

Future gateway to Ann Arbor: City and University of Michigan partnering on Fuller Road transportation center project

By Ryan J. Stanton

The city of Ann Arbor and University of Michigan have agreed to partner on a $541,717 effort to come up with conceptual plans for a new transportation center on Fuller Road - part of a larger, multimillion-dollar project being hailed as the “future gateway to Ann Arbor.”

The Ann Arbor City Council voted 9-0 Monday night to approve a contract with JJR LLC for the first phase of engineering services for the intermodal transit station along the south side of Fuller Road, just east of East Medical Center Drive and north of the University of Michigan Medical Center.


JJR will help complete conceptual designs and an environmental assessment, as well as conduct a detailed transportation study. City officials said conceptual plans should be ready by October, and public input will be sought in the coming months.

Hank Baier, the university's associate vice president, sent City Administrator Roger Fraser a letter Monday indicating the university will fund a majority of the first phase of design work for a total of $327,733, while the city picks up $213,985.

The entire project could cost $50 million to $60 million, which includes building out commuter rail platforms and an elevated sky bridge, said Eli Cooper, Ann Arbor's transportation program manager.

“This is the first substantive step toward making the east-west rail with a connection spot in Ann Arbor a reality," said Councilman Leigh Greden, one of the sponsor's of Monday's resolution. "It's also important because we have substantial University of Michigan support behind the project. When this project is complete, this will reduce traffic congestion, benefit the environment, increase people coming to town to use the hospital and to use other businesses, and it will reduce the number of new parking spaces that we need."

The city owns the land for the proposed transportation center along Fuller Road. City officials have determined the area is uniquely suited for development; it's next to the existing Amtrak passenger rail service corridor, which is proposed for future commuter rail service and has been designated as a national high-speed corridor between Detroit and Chicago.

The site is accessible to bus transport via Fuller and East Medical Center Drive, and is adjacent to the Washtenaw County Border-to-Border Trail. The city and university are planning to jointly develop the facility, currently referred to as the Fuller Intermodal Transportation Station.

Cooper said this marks "the beginning of the transportation system for this community for the 21st century." He said many are familiar with the current Amtrak service that allows people to come and go from Ann Arbor, but a new mode of transit is on its way to the region.

"In October of next year, we expect commuter rail, an entirely different type of service," Cooper said. "It will connect the city of Ann Arbor with the city of Ypsilanti, Metro Airport, Dearborn and Detroit on a very fast and frequent service."

In its first phase of development, the proposed station will include a bus stop and parking structure with about 900 parking spaces and a surface parking lot with about 100 parking spaces.

Future phases may include additional parking, connections to rail platforms, a rail waiting/ticketing area, an Ann Arbor Transportation Authority and university bus terminal, skywalk connections to the hospital and other elements.

“This will be potentially the very new gateway for many people arriving into Ann Arbor," said Councilwoman Sandi Smith, D-1st Ward. "It may be their first vision of Ann Arbor, and if you take a look at the two buildings right now that are next to each other that have been train stations in our history - you look at what the Gandy Dancer is versus the Amtrak building now - I would like to think that we look a little bit closer toward something that has some significance of a building like the Gandy Dancer.”

The university had plans for a separate parking structure on Wall Street that are now being put on hold, city officials said Monday.


Councilwoman Sabra Briere, D-1st Ward, said the Fuller Road project is a good compromise for neighbors who were trying to keep a parking garage out of their neighborhood.

Cooper said a lot of the details - like whether to tunnel under or bridge over the existing tracks to provide access to the medical complex - will be worked out in the conceptual planning stages in the coming months.

Mayor John Hieftje suggested plans include bicycle facilities with lockers and showers.

Cooper indicated parking accommodations may be needed for as many as 1,000 to 1,500 vehicles.

"We recognize that for commuter rail to work, some people will choose to drive to the train station and will need to park their vehicle there, whether it's for a trip to Chicago to see a show, or whether it's for their daily commute to points east,” he said.

Cooper said preliminary site work could commence in late 2010 or early 2011, with the project complete as early as June 2012. Project leaders are meeting with the Michigan Department of Transportation and SEMCOG this week to talk about the timetables.

Cooper said the city is in talks with Amtrak about relocating its services from Depot Street to Fuller Road as part of the project. As of right now, the city's expectation is that a demonstration service expected to start in October 2010 will be calling upon the existing Amtrak station.

"That presents a significant series of challenges for access to those trains for passengers that will be heading in an easterly direction as well as for those coming to Ann Arbor," Cooper said. "We're going to need to have a transportation system able to meet trains and move those people to their ultimate destinations, so relocating the Amtrak service to this will eliminate some of the need for local transportation.

“I think this truly is a new mode of access for people to come to Ann Arbor," added Cooper. "They'll be right at the center of a transportation terminal where they'll have buses to circulate them throughout the city. There's mention of signature transit services. That may be a bus rapid transit or trolley system that would enable travelers to quickly and comfortably travel throughout the primary destinations - to our downtown, the South State Street corridor, up Plymouth Road to the northeast.”

Ryan Stanton covers government for Reach him at or 734-623-2529.



Tue, Nov 16, 2010 : 2:49 p.m.

This will make it easier on my transportation costs. Usually I have to call up Detroit airport transportation, but now I'll just be able to take the train. This is great news.


Tue, Aug 25, 2009 : 3:59 p.m.

Will this service include places to the west, such as Chelsea? Jackson?


Sun, Aug 23, 2009 : 3:55 a.m.

I cannot believe the nonsense I am hearing from people complaining about this project! Woefully underused? what planet were YOU born on. I would gleefully use the commuter rail to get to work in Detroit when my job calls for it, rather than drive, which is expensive, carpool, which isn't always convenient or possible or take the one or two trains that go to Detroit each day hours ahead of the time that my work actually begins. And I am not alone. There are lots of people, like me, who need this to be available to them. It does everyone good. All these naysayers appear to me to be people who would complain about anything new or different. In the horse and buggy days, they would've complained about the horseless carriage, and probably would've complained about telegraph, television, telephone, cell phones, air flight and any other innovation that has benefitted mankind. This is nuts! We need mass transportation in order to survive and prosper! That is one of the things killing this state! That and the archaic nimby attitudes I am reading on this thread! You look at any thriving metropolitan area in this country and you will find, cheap, reliable mass transportation. End of story. I find this to be exciting and way overdue.


Thu, Aug 20, 2009 : 10:01 a.m.

How about consolidating costs and putting it in with the new birdse on Stadium and utilizing those rails?


Thu, Aug 20, 2009 : 7:25 a.m.

Locating the new station just north of the current Amtrak station (in the Amtrak parking area) would place it in close proximity to the Howell/Toledo rail line. This would provide central transfer point for both lines and allow people to change trains.


Wed, Aug 19, 2009 : 10:13 p.m.

oops... meant to say I agree with "jobo".... why does this website put the posters name UNDER the post instead of above it?


Wed, Aug 19, 2009 : 10:04 p.m.

I agree with Marc Williams. It's going to take more than a new train station to attract people to rail transport. Face it, you can drive a carload of people to Chicago for about $30 worth of gas, and arrive in 1/2 the time of taking the train when you compare door-to-door time. Going to Detroit, the comparison favors driving even more. And what are the chances the train station at the other end is close to your destination?


Wed, Aug 19, 2009 : 8:44 p.m.

For those people who think this project is the most expensive thing ever conceived (and of course is a waste of 'we the peoples' taxes), this project is chump change compared to what most communities spend on developing multi-modal facilities. If we want light rail/street cars/anything else that might actually make this region attractive to people who aren't from Michigan or Ohio, we're going to have to spend much, much more more than $60M. Why is there all this complaining about governmental officials who don't represent 'we the people' of Ann Arbor? If 'we the people' are so unhappy, then 'we the people' need to turn out and vote for change. If 'we the people' are not happy with the current slate of politicos, 'we the people' should do something radical like getting involved to change things! Ann Arbor politics are hardly inaccessible, unless you want to do it solely from from behind a computer keyboard.


Wed, Aug 19, 2009 : 8:17 p.m.

I think this has great potential; I have commuted for 30 years from the NE Ypsi area to work @ the U. I'd welcome the chance to ride the rail when weather doesn't allow me to cycle, and even more, to ride into town WITH my bike, then spend the day in town cycling wherever. Sweetchaos: I'm wondering what happens to those UM Hospital commuters whose parking spots (already at a premium) are displaced from the existing lot there, as the schematic proposes.

Craig Lounsbury

Wed, Aug 19, 2009 : 6:19 p.m.

It should be noted regardless of how one feels about the project, that when "the city" and "the University" team up its really "we the people" (tax payers) footing the bill. Whether its a swell idea or a boneheaded idea they are teaming up with our money.


Wed, Aug 19, 2009 : 4:25 p.m.

Pie in the sky. I believe it will be woefully underused. Planners always underestimate the attachment people have to their cars and the convenience of controlling their own transportation. We had a perfectly good commuter train service to Detroit in the late 60's. I rode it to work most days--me and seven other people.

Marc Williams

Wed, Aug 19, 2009 : 4:18 p.m.

@racerx Portland, Oregon is my hometown and there are vertical bike racks on the trains. It's great if you live in the suburbs and want to go biking in Forest Park or work downtown. As for showers, if my office had a shower available I would bike to work. As for parking spaces I think for the foreseeable future cars should be accommodated as part of a balanced transit plan. In the Portland tri-county area I could get almost anywhere taking public transit. Can't say the same for here. Cars will be needed until we have more and better alternatives.


Wed, Aug 19, 2009 : 2:35 p.m.

I travel a lot for work, and I truly appreciate a city that makes it easy to get from the train station (or airport) to points downtown. Having a commuter train, Amtrak, buses and bike parking all together would show that Ann Arbor has good planning and cares about commuters and visitors. Think of all those people coming to visit the hospital who would have options besides driving and parking. Go Fuller Gateway!


Wed, Aug 19, 2009 : 12:32 p.m.

WAAM said a meeting would be held. Does anyone know location of meeting?


Wed, Aug 19, 2009 : 11:25 a.m.

Nice article and good news. HOWEVER, at that location, Fuller is not Fuller ROAD; it is Fuller STREET. You might want to correct that, Ryan. We wonder, also, about the City's contribution. Where will the funds be coming from? Helen

Marvin Face

Wed, Aug 19, 2009 : 10:43 a.m.

In Portland, they encourage bikes on the trains and accommodate them with special vertical racks and standing areas:

Rick C.

Wed, Aug 19, 2009 : 10:24 a.m.

Why bicycle + commuter rail? Lots of people live close enough to a rail station to bicycle there, but not close enough to work. People do similar things with buses in Ann Arbor all the time. I have a co-worker who lives on the far west side of A2, a mile from a bus stop. He bicycles there, takes the bus to the far east side (about a mile from where he works, where no buses come closer), then he bicycles the rest of the way. I can easily see bicycling there with a change of clothes from my house, and even spending a weekend in Chicago with no car needed.

Richard C

Wed, Aug 19, 2009 : 10:17 a.m.

I'd like to see a better justification as to why this location is better than the existing Amtrak location. The advantage I see to the Fuller location is that it serves the UofM Hospital and the City, instead of just the City. I also see that it could have a better parking layout than the existing Amtrak station. I do agree that the existing Amtrack station is "aesthetically challenged". Bicycle racks (or lockers), with nearby showers would facilitate people commuting to Detroit from Ann Arbor to cycle to the station - and make the train ride into Detroit (or wherever) much less unpleasant for fellow passengers. On the other hand, the existing Amtrak location is right next to Ann Arbor's rail yards - which means that if a siding is needed to be built for passenger loading/unloading, it's a lot easier to locate there than with the Fuller design. If there is going to be a "high speed" rail service between Detroit and Chicago, is it going to load and unload passengers directly from the high-speed line or will sidings be needed to facilitate this? The railroad right-of-way here was originally designed for two sets of tracks, although only one set are in place currently. Lastly, FYI: Major high speed fiber optic cables run along these tracks. Among other things, these cables connect the University of Michigan with Wayne State University and Michigan State University to the Internet2 backbone in Chicago.


Wed, Aug 19, 2009 : 10:13 a.m.

"In October of next year, we expect commuter rail, an entirely different type of service," Cooper said. "It will connect the city of Ann Arbor with the city of Ypsilanti, Metro Airport, Dearborn and Detroit on a very fast and frequent service." I trust Mr. Cooper understands the existing rail line that passes through Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, Dearborn, and ends in Detroit IS NOT the same rail line he sees along the north side of Metro Airport. That's the Norfolk Southern I believe, and at that point is about 3 miles south of the original Michigan Central tracks Amtrak currently uses. That's going to be a long walk dragging your suitcase, if you're headed for the airport from here.


Wed, Aug 19, 2009 : 9:35 a.m.



Wed, Aug 19, 2009 : 8:53 a.m.

What a great idea and a great location! We have discussed this for years. It is encouraging to see movement. If you are interested in the details then go to the public forums. Help the council make a good plan. I am excited that our city is forward thinking!


Wed, Aug 19, 2009 : 8:28 a.m.

I don't think so- at this point in time, it costs quite a bit to park if you are a UMMC employee... I am all for some sort of rail system. It'd be super! Showers, however, make me wonder....


Wed, Aug 19, 2009 : 7:14 a.m.

What a great idea! I'm in support, we often consider taking the train when traveling to near by cities but back off when we see the cost and limited times to ride. It's time to invest in mass transit, Ann Arbor is sitting perfectly to lead the way. I hope the site plans incorporate the many recreational uses surrounding this area; the river, Nichol's Arboretum, Island, riverside & fuller parks. Site planners JJR is a great choice for this phase of the project. Bike racks are an obvious thing but keep in mind many travelers will want to walk to there destinations from the station.


Wed, Aug 19, 2009 : 5:41 a.m.

The City Council can't multi task and I feel like this is a kwame re-make.


Wed, Aug 19, 2009 : 5:40 a.m.

These people need to resign. Our constitutional and Civil Rights are just paln violated what happened to the right to vote our community. We have a bunch of baffons running our City. (It's our City) It's our Community! Build another Grocery Store Build another Condo building build build build build build more more OCD destroy all the character our city once had that you have taken without our permission Resign


Tue, Aug 18, 2009 : 11:29 p.m.

Let's not go for an expensive monument, because it won't be long before bureaucrats will want to tear it down and build a new one. The recent attempts to do in city hall and the library serve as a warning.


Tue, Aug 18, 2009 : 10:51 p.m.

Mayor Hieftje, "...suggest plans include bicycle facilities with lockers and showers..." Why would someone ride there bike only to the train station and not continue to their place of employ or any other destination? Showers? This is why people drive their cars, so they don't have to end up smelling like the grim from the road, but this is part of the "allure" of riding your bike everywhere. Next he'll want to put space of bikes on trains! Is it me or does this defeat the purpose of using a commuter rail? Be thankful that the UM is willing to partner with the city before including "personal" grandiose" plans that you envision.


Tue, Aug 18, 2009 : 10:04 p.m.

Why would you need a 1000 -1500 parking spaces at a hub that provides transportation into and out of Ann Arbor, as well as transportation to and from anywhere in town? How is that gonna solve traffic congestion and benefit the environment? This city's council and planning dept. are parking structure crazy! While you're at it, kill the Library Lot too and make it a park/city square, so we can start enjoying this town!


Tue, Aug 18, 2009 : 6:57 p.m.

When did jobs, new transit systems, and becomming more connected to other areas ever become a bad thing?? Be happy we live in an area where it is even possible to have this chance to prosper as a city.


Tue, Aug 18, 2009 : 5:30 p.m.

Trust me, UM employees will NOT get a free ride, they have to pay to park in the existinglot and anywhere else on campus...fees for them will most likely increase or this will be a lot that they cannot use due to increased public use


Tue, Aug 18, 2009 : 4:52 p.m.

Great story, Ryan. Very interesting development -- please keep us informed!

Mumbambu, Esq.

Tue, Aug 18, 2009 : 4:02 p.m.

EIS's are major undertakings - Expensive and time consuming, but required. For more info do a google search on NEPA, Categorical Exclusions (CE), Environmental Assessments (EA) and Environmental Impact Statements (EIS).


Tue, Aug 18, 2009 : 3:32 p.m.

Great innovation and nice the U-M is partnering with the city! My only question...Why 1 year for an enviromental impact study?? Is it due to the proximity to the Huron river and large surface run off? Seems like a long time to asess this situation.


Tue, Aug 18, 2009 : 2:34 p.m.

Why would they not consider allowing private development to pay for he infrastructure rather than further burden the tax payers. maybe it could create reveues to the city.

Resident Tourist

Tue, Aug 18, 2009 : 2:10 p.m.

Great news! There is no way the current Amtrak "station" would be able to support the traffic that an Ann Arbor-Detroit commuter rail would attract, much less any future rail/transit development. A first class facility for a first-class city.

Fred Posner

Tue, Aug 18, 2009 : 2:06 p.m.

Sounds like Field of Dreams to me... If you build it, the train will come? When they're talking about raising taxes on people who don't even live/vote in Ann Arbor, this idea seems like it should have been cut immediately. There's no reason to increase spending when you're already hurting for money. Bad decision.


Tue, Aug 18, 2009 : 1:43 p.m.

Did you miss the part where UoM is picking up a majority of the money for the initial design?


Tue, Aug 18, 2009 : 1:11 p.m.

That means that all U of M employee's and students will get a free ride, and all Ann Arbor residents (tax payer's) will have to pay.