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Posted on Wed, Sep 28, 2011 : 5:11 p.m.

Michigan House approves high-speed rail funding, including $2.8M for Ann Arbor train station

By Ryan J. Stanton

Ann Arbor is one step closer to getting a new passenger rail station to help accommodate high-speed rail service under legislation approved today in the Michigan House.

Local officials are praising the passage of Senate Bill 237, which, in part, allows the state to spend $2.8 million in federal funding for a new train station on Fuller Road in Ann Arbor to eventually accommodate 110-mph trains running between Detroit and Chicago.


Passengers board a train to Chicago at the Amtrak station in Ann Arbor.

Angela J. Cesere |

"High-speed rail represents the future of passenger service in the United States, and it's only fitting that Ann Arbor become a hub for this groundbreaking mode of transportation," state Rep. Mark Ouimet, R-Scio Township, said in a statement.

"It could usher in an economic boon as well," Ouimet added. "High-speed rail would give local residents easier access to places like Chicago, but it also gives millions of people in Chicago easier access to Ann Arbor."

SB 237, which also had strong support from state Rep. Jeff Irwin, D-Ann Arbor, enables the state to collect $358.9 million in competitive federal grants for rail improvements. Taking into account local, state and private dollars, the approved appropriations bill includes nearly $400 million in rail-related spending.

Much of that money will go toward purchase and rehabilitation of 135.7 miles of track owned by Norfolk Southern between Kalamazoo and Dearborn.

"I'm thrilled that there was such overwhelming support from the House and the Senate for this investment in our rail infrastructure," Irwin said. "I just think that goes to show that when the Republicans and the governor put something on the table that produces jobs and opportunity and economic development for our state, that's an opportunity for a lot of agreement and a lot of bipartisan action, so I'm proud of what we did today."

The $2.8 million awarded to Ann Arbor is expected to pay for the environmental and preliminary engineering phases of Fuller Road Station. The total project could cost more than $120 million, according to estimates provided by the city.

SB 237 now awaits the governor's signature.

Previous coverage: Ann Arbor to benefit as Michigan moves to purchase and rehab Norfolk Southern rail line

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.


zip the cat

Thu, Sep 29, 2011 : 12:24 p.m.

A real friggin waste of taxpayers money. Makes as much sence as a screen door in a submarine. Six cars of the chicago to detroit train passed thru dexter the other day and as I sat waiting for it to pass only 1or2 people were on the train in each car

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Thu, Sep 29, 2011 : 10:46 p.m.

@zip: Pure nonsense. The train is routinely packed and nearly impossible to purchase tickets for less than two weeks before intended travel. GN&GL

Peter Baker

Thu, Sep 29, 2011 : 4:02 p.m.

Have you ever ridden that train? I've never been on it with less than 2/3rds of the seats filled, and I've taken it to and from Chicago close to a hundred times over the last 10 years. Watching from your car is hardly a good way to judge.


Thu, Sep 29, 2011 : 12:13 p.m.

Voters continue to be sucked into the "high speed" phrase fraud. . This not some futuristic - bullet train - you see in France - this is a first step payolla to increase speeds from below 'slow' mph to above 'slow' mph average speed. Using the phrase "high speed" is just what politicians do to get dollars spent, in the case of trains. From this point forward, the AANEws should state the before and after MPH with every quote of 'High Speed' that comes from Lansing.


Thu, Sep 29, 2011 : 8:18 a.m.

2.8 M is probably the seed money to the Union bosses.

Ron Granger

Thu, Sep 29, 2011 : 1:08 a.m.

High speed rail? Through farm country? Did anyone read about the wandering horses that were struck by the car yesterday near Adrian?

John A2

Wed, Sep 28, 2011 : 11:52 p.m.

"All dressed up and no place to go?", Were are you going to, with out jobs how is one going to afford to go, they probably aren't going to work. Anyway, what's all the fuss about transportation lately anyway. Are the giant corps trying to tell us something.

Macabre Sunset

Thu, Sep 29, 2011 : 3:30 a.m.

Detroit fell because it was run by corrupt politicians.


Thu, Sep 29, 2011 : 12:59 a.m.

Transportation will be key toward growth and sustainability. Detroit fell partially because it was too reliant upon automobiles and had a massive urban sprawl without any good transportation system to keep the inner core from dying. It's why it's a key topic. We have to remember, the future are the younger generations which we are already seeing are sick of sub-urban life and want to have a city based life. That trend is likely to continue.


Wed, Sep 28, 2011 : 10:17 p.m.

I am delighted to see this.


Wed, Sep 28, 2011 : 11:55 p.m.

No doubt Gramma! Invest in infrastructure projects to create real, good paying jobs. Build a train station! Build a bridge! Engineers, construction workers, equipment operators... The needed jobs for these kinds of projects goes on and on.

Macabre Sunset

Wed, Sep 28, 2011 : 9:59 p.m.

Do they understand that trains can't go 110 mph (which is below the "high-speed" threshold, technically) without significant improvements to the rail lines? We're talking billions of dollars, not millions, because intersections need to be replaced. This is only the beginning of an immense money-suck that won't change anything. Detroit is still going to be Detroit. It's not Boston. It's not Washington. It's certainly not New York. Irwin and Ouimet are names I will remember to vote against if I ever see them on a ballot.

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Thu, Sep 29, 2011 : 1:21 p.m.

Correction to above: 130 CDT = 230 EDT = travel time of 5 hours 45 minutes My bad. GN&GL

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Thu, Sep 29, 2011 : 1:20 p.m.

I rode the train to and from Chicago last summer, as well. Times (adjusted for time zone) Depart A2 (already late): 815 AM EDT Arr Chi: 130 PM CDT (2PM EDT) Travel time: 5 hours 15 minutes Depart Chi: 630PM CDT Arr A2: 1AM EDT (12PM CDT) Travel time: 5 hours 30 minutes. Both directions the train was slowed to a near-crawl by N&S between A2 and Chlesea, from east of Jackson to Albion, and from Battle Creek to K-zoo. West of Kzoo on the AMTRAK-owned and maintained tracks the train appeared to achieve speeds well in excess of 70 mph. I say that because the train, which was at relatively constant speed after leaving K-zoo, parallelled US12 in Indiana for several miles. We were close enough to the road to see the speed limit (55) and we were passing cars with ease. And, of course, everyone does the speed limit, right? From Chicago I travelled to Kansas City. More difficult to estimate that train's speed excpet on a section in Illinois that parallelled an Interstate highway. Assuming a speed limit of 70mph, we were doing at least 80-85mph because, again, we were passing cars with ease. I arrived in KC 15 minutes late. Total travel time to KC: 14 hours, little more than it would have taken me to drive, and I arrived a lot more relaxed and having read two books. Oh, and the train was PACKED, as was the Detroit to Chicago run. Note, on the return trip, the train, having departed Los Angeles 36 hours before, arrived 30 minutes late. Between KC and Chicago we lost another 30 minutes due to track work being done by BNSF, which owns the line AMTRAK uses. People who disparage AMTRAK most often do so from ignorance of the limitations under which it labors, the most important of which is that, outside of the NE corridor, it owns little of the track on which it operates. this purchase will help solve that problem along the line from Detroit to Chicago except for the short section between Michigan City, IN, and Chicago. GN&GL


Thu, Sep 29, 2011 : 12:57 a.m.

Yes, Detroit is Detroit, but Ann Arbor is a bubble, remember, five square miles surrounded by reality. If anyone can do it in this region, it would be Ann Arbor (or Columbus - but dare I say that.? )


Wed, Sep 28, 2011 : 10:54 p.m.

Phil K - I rode the train a few weeks ago. I don't remember going that fast. I do remember it took almost 7 hours. I can drive it in 4 hours. The total distance is about 250 miles. So at 7 hours the average speed was more like 36 miles per hour. I do remember a short section where we probably hit 80 miles per hour.

Macabre Sunset

Wed, Sep 28, 2011 : 10:37 p.m.

And how many grade crossings are there on Amtrak systems that support high-speed trains? It's a neat trick these charlatans play. They create a dream. They pay someone to claim that the dream will magically produce tens of thousands of daily customers. They quickly realize that the cost of the dream is prohibitive (i.e., many billions of dollars). Then they start taking out items like the expensive replacement of hundreds of grade crossings. This, of course, changes the dream into a slower dream. But they still use the grandiose claims from the report they commissioned about the original dream. This is expensive and wasteful.

Phil K.

Wed, Sep 28, 2011 : 10:28 p.m.

"Do they understand that trains can't go 110 mph (which is below the "high-speed" threshold, technically) without significant improvements to the rail lines? We're talking billions of dollars, not millions, because intersections need to be replaced." You're incorrect on the second and third points. Amtrak already has trains ready doing 95+ mph *in Michigan* *today.* The section of line between K-zoo and Hammond, IN is Amtrak property, and their longest section of track outside of the north east corridor. Since they own those lines, the 79mph mandate doesn't apply to them. They've upgraded the train signaling systems and will be able to send trains through that section at 110mph very soon (they may be able to do 110 already. I know they've passed 95, and had 100 and 110 on the schedule. A standard GE Genesis locomotive like Amtrak uses is officially capable of 120mph.) The grade crossings in that area may have been improved, but the biggest hurdle was the antiquated signaling systems, which they've been in the process of upgrading since 2005 (think replacing 40 year old copper infrastructure with fibre opitcs). Even then, they didn't spend "billions" doing it. Amtrak's entire budget is $1.1 Billion dollars per year. That budget has gone up in the past ten years, but not significantly (around 2001 you were talking in the neighborhood of 900 million per year). If you want to throw in stimulus money, you can add another couple billion (depending on how you want to break up the stimulus funding. An overwhelming majority of the stimulus funds have gone to highway improvements.) over the last two years, which covers infrastructure improvements throughout the nation (everything from station rebuilds to major bridge replacement to electrical system upgrades that replaced equipment that was first installed in the 1920's.) The idea that they've got to spend billions of dollars to cover a 150-ish miles of rail improvements just doesn't fit.

Ron Granger

Wed, Sep 28, 2011 : 9:47 p.m.

$2.8 million? The first phase of the parking structure alone is expected to cost $43 million. How much train station can you get for $2.8 million?


Thu, Sep 29, 2011 : 1:41 p.m.

How much train station can you get for $2.8 million? Depends how much art you put in it.


Wed, Sep 28, 2011 : 11:48 p.m.

The $2.8M is for the preliminary engineering which will confirm how correct the estimated $120M mentioned in the article really is. The engineering firm will go in to detail on what is really needed to make this happen as far as labor, materials, infrastructure, design, etc.