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Train, Rail Projects Could Be Finalized This Week

Dearborn's federally-funded light rail and train station will move ahead–sources say–despite difficult Washington headwinds.

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.

Craig Frost August 09, 2011 at 06:43 PM
PS- How is a 140,000 square foot office complex (and re-occupation of the abandoned Lear complex) a sorry example? Instead, you would naysayers would rather attack "Family Dollar" simply because it caters to low-income people.
Frank Lee August 09, 2011 at 07:11 PM
Mayor O'Reilly has squandered the legacy of Dearborn, by closing pools parks and libraries, increasing taxes and diminishing services all the while chasing the next pie in the sky project. It does not matter if it is a train station, a convention center, Uof M student housing or the Montgomery Wards redevelopment. He continues to spend good money after bad on new projects all the while our current infrastructure and services rapidly decline while he releases worthless press releases. Sorry but a Family Dollar shows the utter bankruptcy of O'Reilly and companies leadership
Craig Frost August 09, 2011 at 07:22 PM
Wasn't Ford Motor Company just a pie in the sky at one time?
Frank Lee August 09, 2011 at 08:59 PM
Yes It was, and until 2008 it was not begging and pleading for government handouts and tax captures to subsidize inefficient business practices like Oakwood, Severstal, UofM student housing and the myriad other lazy managers looking for government handouts from our city. Why don't the residents get a break instead we lose our services and pools and we get press releases
Concerned Citizen August 13, 2011 at 03:40 PM
Thanks everyone for caring enough about Dearborn to take the time to post to this site. I think a number of city officials read this stuff, so what we say here can make a difference. This new station, I believe, will be a great development for Dearborn--if and only if it is done right. Yes, make sure there is enough free parking, like there is at the current station. A new "first class" intermodal station would position Dearborn well if high-speed rail starts to take off. I read in the Free Press that some suburbs like Ferndale and Birmingham are planning on linking up to the planned light rail line which would run up and down Woodward Ave. It might be a good idea for Dearborn officials to look into this as well. Imagine a new intermodal station and a light rail line running along Michigan Ave. To me, it sounds good. I think it would spur development and ultimately enhance our quality of life. Whatever city officials do, though, they shouldn't ignore the things that keep our city attractive to current and future residents: libraries, parks, pools, public safety, emphasis on our great history, a reputation for good services, etc. I may be wrong, but I don't think a new train station will drain money from our core services; I believe it will bring more development to our city, which will bring in more money, which then allows us to investment more in our core attractions. Great cities have great services, and this includes public transportation.

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