It could be full-speed ahead for the new Intermodal Passenger Rail Facility planned for Michigan Avenue and the expanded service it will provide, despite calls for fiscal conservatism and austerity in Washington, D.C.
Therese Cody, the rail operations project manager for the Michigan Department of Transportation, said she believes the red tape related to the $28.2 million Federal Rail Administration Act grant that will fund a new train station could be cleared as early as the end of this week, which will allow construction to begin.
“We expect that funds will be obligated this month, and it could happen this week,” Cody told Patch on Monday. “Once that happens, everything will be in line for the project to be completed.
Barry Murray, the Economic and Community Development director for the city of Dearborn, agreed that the project is “very close” to being a reality.
“There’s a lot of steps that must be completed before construction can begin, but we’re still projecting a two-year completion date,” said Murray. “We think it will be up and running in 2013, and it’s going to be a big boost for this area.”
Because monies for the project are coming from the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, calls from austerity-minded legislators in Washington to give back or re-allocate unspent stimulus monies will not affect the rail project once it is full obligated, said Cody.
Carmine Palumbo, the transportation director for the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments, also agreed the project is imminent.
“We need to look at this project with optimism–we need to keep moving forward and getting things done.”
City Lays in Wait
The new train station will be located adjacent to the , on Michigan Avenue west of the Southfield Freeway. The new station will replace the old Amtrak Station located by the , which is also on Michigan Avenue.
Because the city only has two years from the date funds are obligated to complete construction of the station, construction will begin immediately following the obligation of funds, Murray said.
“We have a much of what we need in place to begin,” he said.
In fact, the city has that will save time as it tries to meet that 2013 deadline. Two contracts–one to the firm of Tooles-Clark for construction management for $1.72 million, and another to Neumann-Smith for architectural and engineering services for $1.92 million–were recently awarded so the project could be ramped up quickly.
“The city has done a great job of putting everything into place,” said Cody. “Given the timeline, it would take a very long time to go through a bid process (after the obligation date). They wanted to make sure they’re ready to go.”
Rail service is more or less unexplored territory for most of Michigan, but the benefits to communities like Dearborn are numerous, said Murray.
“Studies show that people like this sort of transportation; it’s especially something that young people want,” he said. “This will increase the city’s connectivity to other communities.”
The most important aspect of the project, however, is the commuter trains that will link Dearborn to Ann Arbor, which means the two University of Michigan campuses will be linked, other communities will be linked to , and large numbers of residents will be linked to major employers.
Additionally, the new train station will also serve as a drop-off area for the Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation bus system as well as the Detroit Department of Transportation bus system, so riders can travel locally on the bus.
City officials are hoping the project has spin-off benefits, in terms of attracting major employers and residents who seek to live near the train, Murray said.