According to an article just published in Crain’s, it looks as though we should find out in a few days whether or not the Federal Rail Administration will be coming forward to invest $200 million in the Ann Arbor – Detroit commuter line that we’re all so anxious to see happen. Here’s a clip:
…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…
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.
I don’t know what we can do to make it happen at this late date, but I imagine it wouldn’t hurt to drop Congressman Dingell a line and let him know how much local passenger rail would mean to Ypsilanti. Given how close his race has been these past few weeks, it seems like he’d be super motivated to demonstrate to everyone in the district that he’s still able to bring home the proverbial bacon. But, I’m sure he’s already on it, in hopes of getting one more big press release before election day.
While we’re on the subject of Dingell and his reelection bid, here’s a clip from the Wall Street Journal.
Michigan’s Rep. John Dingell, currently the longest-serving member of the House of Representatives, says he isn’t worried about losing the seat that has been in his family since the Great Depression. But a marked change in his campaign spending patterns and a volley of negative ads against his opponent suggest otherwise.
Like many other wary Democrats in races around the country, Rep. Dingell is spending more of his campaign money on himself and sharing far less with other candidates. In the 2008 campaign cycle, Rep. Dingell raised $2.7 million, giving away 30% of that money to Democratic Party efforts and Democrats running for office elsewhere, according to Federal Election Commission filings. This year, with a wealthy doctor nipping at his heels, Rep. Dingell raised $1.5 million through Sept. 30, and has given away 3% of that total to others.
Observers also took the arrival Sunday of former President Bill Clinton as a sign of Democrats’ worries about the 84-year-old congressman first elected in 1955. The two appeared together Sunday night before about 1,000 people in an auditorium at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
To be sure, the latest poll showed Dingell ahead by 17 points—after being tied in a poll two weeks earlier with his Republican opponent, cardiologist Rob Steele—but the incumbent’s shift in campaign strategy is the latest evidence that Democrats are struggling to win over Michigan voters, Despite being buoyed by federal government support through stimulus programs and the bailouts of General Motors Co. and Chrysler LLC, the public here appears increasingly skeptical of incumbents, no matter their past prowess in Washington…
Here’s hoping we win on both counts; keeping John in Congress, and getting local rail.