You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Fri, Apr 8, 2011 : 1:24 p.m.

Snyder says Michigan's application for high-speed rail funds doesn't mean he's committed to the idea

By Ryan J. Stanton

(This story has been updated with comment from Gov. Rick Snyder.)

State Rep. Jeff Irwin, D-Ann Arbor, said today he's encouraged to see Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder chasing after federal high-speed rail funding.

Michigan and 23 other states have submitted applications totaling nearly $10 billion for high-speed rail funds after Florida turned down $2.4 billion it was allocated.

"I'm happy he's going after this money," Irwin said. "I think it's the right choice and it's going to be positive for Michigan's future if we can have a more balanced transportation network that gives people more options to get where they're going and helps with the revitalization of our cities. So I hope Michigan is successful in getting the dollars."

Up until now, it's been unclear where exactly Snyder stands on high-speed rail. But asked by today if the state's application means he's decided he's for high-speed rail, Snyder still gave a noncommittal response.

“We’re not making a commitment to fully go ahead but we’re clearly in the planning process and the analysis process and this is part of that," he said. "We’re in the pipeline to be considered for those things as we do our analysis and planning, because we didn’t want to miss out if it is an appropriate opportunity. We haven’t made a decision yet, but it’s good to apply for it.”

Snyder's office told the Detroit News the state is seeking more than $200 million for four projects, including $196.5 million for high-speed rail improvements between Kalamazoo and Dearborn, which runs through Ann Arbor and is part of the Detroit-to-Chicago corridor.

The state also is seeking $3.5 million to build a train and bus station in Ann Arbor. It's unclear whether that money would go toward the proposed Fuller Road Station near the University of Michigan Hospital, a project on which the city and U-M are partnering.


Jeff Irwin

Michigan also is one of four states jointly seeking $366.7 million to buy new trains. If successful, Michigan would get 13 locomotives and 37 coaches.

Michigan failed to make the list of states receiving federal high-speed rail money back in December after the federal government had to reallocate nearly $1.2 billion that was turned down by the Republican governors of Wisconsin and Ohio.

Michigan was, however, awarded $161 million in federal high-speed rail funds earlier last year, but the state Legislature has yet to take action to approve required matching funds. The federal award included $150 million for improvements along the Detroit-to-Chicago corridor, which Ann Arbor officials are strongly interested in.

The Senate failed to take up the issue before the last session ended in December, and the issue hasn't resurfaced since the new session started in January.

Awaiting the Senate's approval before the last session ended was a bill passed by the House on Nov. 10 authorizing up to $100 million in state construction bonds, which would more than cover the $37 million federal match requirement.

Irwin said today he would have proposed bringing back the legislation by now, but it's his understanding that Rep. Wayne Schmidt, a Republican from Traverse City, plans to take on the issue. He said he's encouraged to hear there might be bipartisan support.

"But have I heard any indication from the leadership they're even going to take this up? I have not," Irwin said. "So I'm not willing to say I'm confident that it's going to happen."

Irwin said he's been trying to get an answer from the federal government about whether there's a time limit to act to secure the funds, and he hasn't received any information on that. reporter Nathan Bomey contributed to this report. Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for Reach him at or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's e-mail newsletters.



Mon, Apr 11, 2011 : 3:02 p.m.

Before we invest in a new "Rapid Transit" rail system we need to take a close look at the Ann Arbor Railroad. It already runs from Toledo through Milan, into Ann Arbor and beyond. How much would it take to update this system rather than build new. Connections could be made in Ann Arbor to travel to Chicago and into Dearborn and Detroit. To me it would better to rebuild the old system than build a new one.


Sun, Apr 10, 2011 : 9:22 p.m.

I have the advantage of speaking as someone who lived in Michigan for many years and for most of the last decade, have resided in New Brunswick, NJ, which is part of the New York City Metropolitan Area. New Brunswick is about 30 miles southwest of NYC. Several years ago, New Jersey started the initiative called "Hub Cities". The concept involves developing new living/residential opportunities around train stations, which connect most communities in NJ with each other, and NYC. The result has been the revitalization of communities like New Brunswick. The new residences have expanded the market for existing businesses, and brought in new ones. Downtown New Brunswick, a city of about 50,000, has more people downtown on a Sunday afternoon in the winter, than many Michigan cities have on a workday. I realize that historically, the Northeast is more inclined to use public transportation, but that is also one of the reasons the Northeast maintains a competitive edge over the Midwest. Because of our train system, in one day you can meet with colleagues in Boston for breakfast; have a late lunch with colleagues in New York City; and meet colleagues for dinner in Philadelphia. Despite the advances in IT, plenty of business and creativity still requires the" in-person" element. Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of drivers and automobiles in the Northeast--too many. However, as long as Michigan believes or pretends that everyone, especially the young and upward mobile, want to live in the suburbs and have to drive to buy a box of Kleenex, the Northeast and other economically vibrant regions of the country will continue to pass it by, probably on a high-speed train.


Mon, Apr 11, 2011 : 2:15 a.m.

Trains run through New Brunswick, NJ about every 20 minutes from about 6 AM until about 10PM. Most of the key towns are in a line from New York City to Washington DC. I defy you to draw a line through the downtowns in this area, we are rather most like a Jackson Pollock painting. The major roads went along these lines first. As you get North of Boston, you find that mass transit stops, because the towns spread out more like a spider. If you want Hub towns, we just need to decide which towns to abandon in Michigan and start an orderly process.

Dog Guy

Sat, Apr 9, 2011 : 1:22 p.m.

How is this story about Jeff Irwin? Irwin's comments belong down here with the commoners'.

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Sat, Apr 9, 2011 : 3:37 p.m.

Thanks, Ryan! Good Night and Good Luck

Ryan J. Stanton

Sat, Apr 9, 2011 : 3:19 p.m.

@ERMG — When we first got this story out yesterday, we hadn't been able to reach anyone from Snyder's office and we weren't sure that we would. All we knew was that his administration was supporting going after high-speed rail funding, and we needed to tell that story. And so we talked to our local lawmaker, who has been one of the leading high-speed rail proponents for years. Jeff Irwin made the statements that are still in the story, that he was happy Snyder was going after the funding. Once Snyder told us going after the funding isn't necessarily a sign that he's behind high-speed rail, we felt that was worth updating the story with. It's not uncommon for stories to evolve as new details emerge. I see that as the beauty of online journalism, not the problem.

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Sat, Apr 9, 2011 : 2:28 p.m.

It's the problem with electronic journalism. In this story's first incarnation, it was about Irwin's support. The story has evolved to be almost solely about Snyder. Would be interesting to know why that happened. Good Night and Good Luck


Sat, Apr 9, 2011 : 12:36 p.m.

In order to get the high speed rail funds we need to borrow $100 million. So we commit our future economic health to pay for a fantasy. We need to expand our economy, not strap it with more debt. When was the last time Mr. Irwin or anyone else who supports this project, used mass transit?


Sat, Apr 9, 2011 : 12:01 p.m.

Take the money but say "no" later if the business does not pencil. I am very cynical that anybody will ever use it....


Sat, Apr 9, 2011 : 3:19 a.m.

The Amtrak proposal is to have trains moving at 75 to 90 miles per hour. The frequency of trains is not expected to increase and with stops, the time from Ann Arbor to Chicago will be about the same as a car or a non-stop bus. Passengers currently pay 25 percent of the cost of the trip, the state is responsible for a big part of the rest. Even if the current trains were always full, they would not break even. Is this fast enough to attract more riders? I don't know. I do know this is not considered High Speed Rail in the rest of the world. As to raising fares, can we do it and keep riders? Will Megabuses steal the frugal folks and keep the trains from breaking even? Lots of unanswered questions, same as with the AATA study and other proposed mass transit in the area. A solid review of how people feel and how much they would pay is a step in the right direction in my mind. Getting trains running 125 MPH or better is also important in my mind, but that will have real costs, moving grade crossings to under or over passes, and adding strong fenced down both sides of the track. The federal money is a small payment against the final cost of real high speed rail, and then who pays back the capital costs?


Sat, Apr 9, 2011 : 12:55 a.m.

This will be Amtrak at 120 mph instead of 60 mph and it will lose 3 billion plus per year instead of 1 billion plus per year because they will never be able to charge enough to cover the cost of the infrastructure. The cost to update rail lines,crossings etc will run billions of dollars. April 1st has come and gone and this bad joke needs to be put to rest ! Good Day


Sat, Apr 9, 2011 : 6:15 a.m.

How much does DTW lose per year? How much does I-94 LOSE per year. Amtrak is not and should not be a profit center.

Thick Candy Shell

Fri, Apr 8, 2011 : 11:17 p.m.

I for one am all for it, the Railroads can start putting in the high speed tracks on all of the Right-of-Ways they let go Rails to Trails. That would give us all of the rail lines we need and they would all be new installs. Unfortunately, people believe that when the did the "Rails to Trails" that they were "given" the Right-of-Way so they will probably fight it.


Fri, Apr 8, 2011 : 10:18 p.m.

Count me in for a high-speed train that links Chicago and Detroit!

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Sat, Apr 9, 2011 : 9:21 p.m.

Yeah, flying aging 737s has worked real well for Southwest lately. Good Night and Good Luck

Basic Bob

Sat, Apr 9, 2011 : 6:22 p.m.

"dirty, dingy, decades' old equipment currently used by AMTRAK" Well, people still fly Southwest with their aging fleet of 737-300 built between 1984 and 1999. Install some new seat covers and few people know the difference.

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Sat, Apr 9, 2011 : 2:32 p.m.

"when was the last time you used the train?" Let's presume that the answer to this question is "Not recently". So that means they won't use it with updated equipment that travels nearly twice as fast as the current trains and that are clean and modern compared to the dirty, dingy, decades' old equipment currently used by AMTRAK? Good Night and Good Luck


Sat, Apr 9, 2011 : 12:38 p.m.

when was the last time you used the train?


Fri, Apr 8, 2011 : 8:30 p.m.

Once Snyder shifts all the taxes to the middle class and the poor, there will be a lot less cars. So its either busses or trains. Thanks Rick!

Moscow On The Huron

Fri, Apr 8, 2011 : 10:01 p.m.

Yup, there it is. I'm surprised it was all the way down to the seventh post this time. Usually they get in here quicker than that. Somebody at DNC headquarters must have fallen asleep on the job.


Fri, Apr 8, 2011 : 7:51 p.m.

I'd love to see an effective national train service. It wouldn't be a bad thing to have the airlines sweating themselves dry. Air travel is too non-essential for most to use all of that fuel.

Do not taunt Happy Fun Ball

Fri, Apr 8, 2011 : 7:32 p.m.

1) Trains need lots of passengers to survive year after year - and they need to have them everyday. As romantic and efficient as these proposals sound, wishes and dreams don't pay the bills or Union employees - 'show me the money' - show me the proforma P&L on the annual system as compared to other trains already running. Amtrak is a money loser year after year. The only trains that actually make money are in very heavily populated areas. Is the uni-rail in Detroit a big winner? Nope. Why will this be so different? 2) How fast is "high speed rail"? 50mph? or 150mph? Is that just top speed or average speed during the trip? Please let's set a standard and keep to it. Many so called high speed rail systems are really not high speed at all - they are just called that because is sounded sexy when trying to grab taxpayer funds.

Do not taunt Happy Fun Ball

Sun, Apr 10, 2011 : 5:13 p.m.

DBlaine - 1. The Google states in 2009 Amtrak was subsidized $32 for each and every passenger ticket. Subsidized by the Taxpayer. For 28+million passengers. 2. Despite recent growth, the United States still has one of the lowest inter-city rail usages in the developed world. But the US is different in many ways. 3. Transportation does not have to be profitable _If_ it does not compete with free market providers. As it is, Amtrak has basically wiped out all competitors due to a Tax Payer subsidy that it gets. The Wiki states "The sole intercity passenger railroad in the continental United States is Amtrak" 4. Starship Transportation would be nice too - perhaps the Tax Payer can buy/subsidize that for you too at $1,000,000 per ticket. Now that is high speed. 5. I am not against trains - Canada has great rail, I use it when ever possible. But anything that runs has to pay the bills too - I can't pay anymore. I am a taxpayer and I am broke.


Sat, Apr 9, 2011 : 6:13 a.m.

"Amtrak is a money loser year after year"- This is the wrong heaed thinking that keep sus in a mess. Airlinees are losing money. Highways and roads lose money. The fact is, high speed rail is an alternative to DECREASE costs and congestion at airportslike Ohare and less road travel means less road constructions costs No airport is a profit center, no road is either. but somehoww train travel needs to make it on their P&L.. How about if the trains can travel between Detroit and Chicago in 2-3 hours. Less time then a car and usually faster than the drive to DTW and dealing with security theater provided by the TSA, and the delays on the runaway to only get to Ohare and then forced to take a 45 minute cab ride o the the city. The next version I would lovve to see is a high speed rail between Detroit and Florida.


Fri, Apr 8, 2011 : 10:33 p.m.

I've lived in two different communties (Portland, Oregon and Chicago, Illinois) that have a mass-trans train, light-rail, and street car system in place, they're really nice. I can tell you from personal experience that both have enough daily passengers to make it worth while. I think a high-sped rail system across all of Southern Michigan (the I-94 corridor) and hopefully that connects to Chicago would bring a big economic benefit to this State. Remember, cargo is also shipped on trains, and for a cheaper price than planes and trucks (puts more money back to the business owners).


Fri, Apr 8, 2011 : 7:45 p.m.

As we all know, or should know, the "uni-rail" in Detroit is the product of a lack of regional coordination. SE Michigan had a chance to use $600 million in federal money waaaay back in the early 70s -- thanks President Ford -- but the city and suburbs couldn't cooperate. The People Mover is not transit done correctly. There's nothing "romantic" about these proposals, and I'm glad you agree they're efficient. I agree with you on that point. Re. a standard for high speed rail. Yes, there is one. Just becasue you don't know it, doesn't mean it doesn't exist. Why don't you use The Google. I hope you also take a stand against our money-losing highways. When was the last time US-23 made money? Again, using The Google you can find that Amtrak ridership was up 37 percent over 2000 levels -- and Amtrak in FY 2010 served more than half of the air-rail market between DC and New York, and New York and Boston. Let's repeat that -- more than half. Now, imagine we didn't have a national train service. Do you think all of those people could be served by airplanes, and served efficiently? Ever try to fly into and out of JFK? What's the social cost of more airplane delays? What's the social cost of not being able to make those trips? What's the social cost of traveling by airplane -- emitting more CO2 -- rather than rail? Inquiring minds...

Ryan J. Stanton

Fri, Apr 8, 2011 : 7:42 p.m.

I believe the goal is 110 mph, which certainly isn't the 245 mph we've heard about in places like China. But it's faster than we have today.

Bertha Venation

Fri, Apr 8, 2011 : 7:26 p.m.

Sounds like a good idea. However, I agree with other posts in that I hope we're not "putting the cart before the horse."


Fri, Apr 8, 2011 : 6:28 p.m.

If gas prices keep going up they will have their train. It will be the only form of traval for the regular folks. Jeffs just looking out for us you know>

Macabre Sunset

Fri, Apr 8, 2011 : 6:26 p.m.

My concern about the train obsession is that it's being used to "revitalize" urban areas that we have sunk mind-boggling amounts of money into, with zero return. Trains for the sake of trains doesn't help anyone other than a few land speculators. You need higher destination density than anything you currently find in Michigan. In other words, you build the trains to support an existing need. You don't build the trains to create a need.


Fri, Apr 8, 2011 : 7:13 p.m.

SE Michigan is dense enough for mass transit. Ann Arbor, Ypsi, Dearborn and Detroit are all denser than 4,000 people per square mile. The region as a whole is denser than many others that do have mass transit. Lack of density is a canard. Check Census 2010. In addition, done right, mass transit sparks private investment in real estate and the local economy. Just check out Portland (which by the way is less dense than Detroit.). The presence of mass transit has increased home values in areas that added train/trolley/subway stops. The increase in values is in relation to the proximity to the transit stop. But this is about high-speed rail. There is an existing need. The Detroit-Chicago corridor is a perfect length for high-speed rail. It would be faster than driving or taking the bus. It would be comparable to flying, if you consider the time going to/from DTW and O'Hare and the areas of downtown employment, and certainly more convenient. I just cannot see how arguing against greater transit options helps our economy.

Moscow On The Huron

Fri, Apr 8, 2011 : 5:37 p.m.

I believe these trains can work if they can attract business travelers, and the key to doing that is making the trains can run on time and providing Internet. If all we end up with is spending millions more on the same unreliable, dirty trains with surly employees that we have now, it will all be a big waste.

Peter Baker

Sat, May 7, 2011 : 12:21 a.m.

I think that's kind of the point of spending more money on it.


Fri, Apr 8, 2011 : 10:35 p.m.

I agree. Build a "21 century" train that has modern commidities, is efficient, and reliable.