With the last pieces of the Dearborn Intermodal Passenger Rail Station put into place, the city of Dearborn is readying for the start of construction–which could come as soon as the end of February.
Awarded a , the city was given two years from that date to complete the project.
In December, the City Plan Commission approved the land use plan for the station; on Jan. 24, City Council approved the city's purchase of the eight-acre site from Ford Land for $2.05 million, $115,000 of which will come from the general fund. The parcel of land is located on the south side of Michigan Avenue, just east of west downtown Dearborn.
Economic and Community Development Director Barry Murray spoke with Patch this month about some of the changes made in the plan thus far, and what users of the facility can expect to see by 2013.
One of the differences is the actual shape and orientation of the action station. It will face Michigan Avenue at an angle, explained Murray, with a walkway aligning the front doors with a tower on the property of the .
"We had to jog everything a little bit to make it fit, (and) put an angle in it to allow that to align, but it actually has kind of a nice feature," said Murray. "But we still have the same mission, which was to align it with the tower on the museum."
The front space of the station will have a glass atrium displaying some type of automotive or locomotive artifacts–although the size of that display will depend on how much funding is left after the project is nearly completed.
The biggest change, however, came about when Murray and lead design firm on the project, Neumann/Smith Architecture, realized that a plan to put a pedestrian bridge crossing Michigan Avenue would be too costly.
“The bridge was a budget issue, because that was fairly expensive," said Murray. "But we still wanted to achieve that same piece, which was to be able to get people across (Michigan Avenue) to get to the Greenway Trail."
However, a compromise with the Michigan Department of Transportation provided a win-win situation for both entities.
Now, the plan is to put a street-level crosswalk from the station to the trail, which would fall between two new turnarounds in the median of Michigan Avenue. A traffic signal on both sides will provide the safety needed for a pedestrian crossing. But as a result, said Murray, "Then our parking lot didn’t work anymore.”
A reworking of the bus path provides what Murray and his team hopes will be a smooth route for busses and cars making drop-offs–without clogging up Michigan Avenue traffic.
"MDOT and our architects say this model will work great," Murray said.
The landscaping will be designed by SmithGroupJJR, which was one of the original groups working on the project. Neumann/Smith's work is led by Principal in Charge Michael Kirk, who also currently serves as the chairman of the Dearborn Chamber of Commerce.
Kirk's team took the lead on planning to make the station LEED-certified–including solar panels, geothermal heating and storm water collection. As a result, while initial costs will be higher, the investment will mean lower bills in the future for the city of Dearborn.
“Our whole goal was to build it with high-quality materials that would be low maintenance and energy efficient," Murray said. "We’re still on that path.”
A one-acre parcel saved for lease to a to-be-determined restaurant is hoped to help build a long-term fund to take care of the station's upkeep and costs.
And as for the station's impact on the surrounding downtown community and The Henry Ford, the likelihood of bringing more feet to the streets is exciting, says Murray.
"We’re so auto-oriented in this communities, it’s hard to get people down to that scale, and we need people to do that," he said. "Typically in communities with trains, people are willing to walk. But when you have connections to things like the Henry Ford where people know they’re going to walk, or the campuses where students are happy to walk, then I think maybe we have the spark there to stimulate that kind of activity."