Crain’s Detroit Business
Organizers of a Detroit-Ann Arbor commuter rail project expect to learn next week if $200 million in federal capital funding will be approved.
The Federal Rail Administration money (via the second round of funding set aside for high-speed rail projects under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009) would be used to build new sidings, signals and make other corridor improvements, said Carmine Palombo, director of transportation planning for the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments regional planning agency.
“It would eliminate the conflict between freight and passenger trains,” he said.
The 48-mile rail project, which would start with four daily round trips, is a joint effort by SEMCOG and the Michigan Department of Transportation and could be operational — if it gets the money — by the end of 2011, Palombo said.
“Probably the most optimistic scenario is the end of next year,” he said.
Amtrak will be contracted to operate the service.
Palombo gave backers an update on the project today.
A $12 million MDOT project to eliminate a bottleneck east of Dearborn where two tracks merge into one line is scheduled to begin in the spring, he said.
That’s expected to trim five to seven minutes off the trip, making it about 50 to 55 minutes. Stops will be at Detroit, Dearborn, near Detroit Metropolitan Airport, Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor.
Work is under way on the federally required environmental assessment.
Three locomotives and nine passenger cars have been leased from Great Lakes Central Railroad, which is owned by Farmington Hills-based Federated Capital Corp., and are in the process of being refurbished and painted, Palombo said.
The lease and refurbishment work is about $2 million. The livery will be green, yellow and blue, and trains will be a locomotive with two cars.
SEMCOG previously wanted to have a demonstration service set up by this month for special events, such as University of Michigan football games and the Thanksgiving parade, but the organizing process didn’t allow that to happen.
The demonstration service could still happen this year if the funding is awarded and work on the cars is done soon, Palombo said.
When the regular service begins, fares could run $6 to $8 for the full trip between Detroit and Ann Arbor, or $1.50 to $2 between stations. Those numbers could change by the time the service begins, Palombo said.
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