If you support rail in Michigan, pick up the phone Tuesday morning and make a call

Tomorrow, Michigan proponents for rail, like myself, are being encouraged to pick up their phones and call Michigan Senate Majority Leader Michael Bishop, urging him to call a vote on the $35 million in matching funds necessary if we’re to claim the $161 million federal rail grant we recently became eligible for. Here, with the details, is a note from the folks at Transportation Riders United:


Tomorrow 9:00 AM

A train from Chicago to Detroit in less than four hours? It could be coming, if the Michigan Senate votes for HB 6484! Help make sure it happens – call Senator Bishop on Tuesday, November 30. Details: Michigan will get at least $161 million from the feds to buy and fix the Detroit-Ann Arbor-Kalamazoo railroad track, if the state provides the required $35 million match. HB 6484 provides that match by allowing state bonds to be used for rail improvement. The House passed it, the Governor supports it. Now the Michigan Senate must pass it – this week! Can we get 500 people to call Senator Bishop on Tuesday, November 30, to make sure it is a top lame-duck priority?

If you want to sign up to make a call, you can do so on Facebook. You can also share the link with friends, asking them to do the same, as I have here.

And, remember, if this is going to happen, it has to happen now, as the Michigan Senate leaves for the year on December 2nd.

Oh, and don’t just call Bishop’s office. Call your Michigan Senator as well, asking him or her to press Bishop to bring the legislation to the floor for a vote. You can find your Senator’s contact information here.

I should also mention that, before sharing this campaign with you, I first ran it by my friend Richard Murphy, who studies transportation-related issues for the Michigan Suburbs Alliance. I wanted to make sure that encouraging calls to Bishop’s office tomorrow was in fact the best way to see this legislation pushed forward. Here, with is permission, is his response, which includes a great deal of useful background.

Michigan has been awarded $161m in Federal high-speed rail funding for the Chicago-Detroit corridor, IF AND ONLY IF we can come up with the matching funds for it. (About $35m.) The State House has passed HB 6484, which would provide for the match out of existing bonding capacity in the State Building Authority. The bill received statewide, bipartisan support in the House – Republican Wayne Schmidt of Traverse City was the lead sponsor.

The Michigan Senate only has 3 more days in session this year – Tuesday through Thursday of this week. If they don’t pass HB 6484 in that time, it gets harder for Michigan to tap this funding. Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop needs to be convinced to at least let the bill come onto the Senate floor for a vote, if not actually support it himself. Please call or e-mail him, as well as your own Senator (Sen. Liz Brater, for Ypsilantians), and pass the word along to friends and family across the State.

While the money is specific to the Chicago-Detroit high speed rail project, much of the work covered with this funding would also advance the Ann Arbor – Detroit commuter rail project, which would have a stop in Ypsi, meaning that making the match is especially important to Ypsilanti.

If you want to know more, check out some of the following sources:

* PIRG’s “Connecting the Midwest” explains how the midwest high-speed rail network will both support economic development (construction and job creation) all along the line, as well as saving money overall by preventing the need for costly highway and airport expansions.

* TEN’s “More Transit, More Jobs” talks about the job creation potential of transit projects (20% more jobs per dollar spent than highway construction).

* A recent survey by the Suburbs Alliance’s Millennial Mayors Congress found that poor access to transit was the #1 issue (even ahead of job availability) for young professionals in southeast Michigan, and therefore an important piece of combatting “brain drain”.

So, make those calls on Tuesday morning, OK?

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  1. Edward
    Posted November 30, 2010 at 9:19 am | Permalink

    Bishop’s number is (517) 373-2417

  2. Edward
    Posted November 30, 2010 at 9:22 am | Permalink

    Brater’s number is (517) 373-2406

  3. Steph's Dad
    Posted November 30, 2010 at 10:26 am | Permalink

    I called Bishop’s office and the woman I spoke with said their had be a huge number of calls in support.

  4. Knox
    Posted November 30, 2010 at 10:37 am | Permalink

    There’s a public forum on rail coming up next week too.

    Thursday, December 9
    6:00pm – 8:00pm

    Location : Washtenaw Community College’s Morris Lawrence Building
    4800 East Huron River Dr
    Ann Arbor, MI

    The Michigan By Rail Public Forum in Ann Arbor will be held on December 9 , from 6 – 8 PM at Washtenaw Community College’s Morris Lawrence Building, located at 4800 East Huron River Dr, Ann Arbor MI 48105-4800.

    Please Join elected officials and your fellow citizens for the Ann Arbor Michigan By Rail public forum.

    The Michigan by Rail Forum in Ann Arbor is part of a series of public forums taking place throughout the state to engage citizens on a vision for the future of Michigan’s freight and passenger rail system.

    The event will include an overview of the existing system; an interactive rail mapping session; discussion of financing issues and a big-picture vision of the future of Michigan’s railroad system.

    Forums cities include Muskegon, East Lansing, Dearborn, Traverse City, Holland, Jackson, Detroit, Kalamazoo, Battle Creek, Flint, Royal Oak, and St. Joseph/Benton Harbor.

    Please participate and make your voice heard.

  5. Kim
    Posted November 30, 2010 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

    This is from a new AnnArbor.com story about today’s telephone campaign.

    The newly elected governors of Wisconsin and Ohio are refusing to accept almost $1.3 billion in federal high-speed rail grants. U.S. transportation officials are now making plans for the redistribution of those funds to states that will accept them.

    Incoming New York governor Andrew Cuomo has said publicly his administration would gladly take the cash. Fischer said he’s hoping to hear a similar statement from Michigan Gov.-elect Rick Snyder.

    A spokesperson for Snyder’s transition team could not be reached for comment today.

    Is there a chance that we’d vote for the match and then the Governor would come in and say no thanks to the Feds?

  6. Kim
    Posted December 1, 2010 at 9:42 am | Permalink

    Calls today would still help.

    This was in today’s Freep. It’s written by Chris Kolb (Michigan Environmental Council) and Dan Gilmartin (Michigan Municipal League).

    The benefits to Metro Detroit of intercity passenger rail and commuter rail service are clear — economic development, environmental improvement, affordable connections between our communities and convenient travel to and from home and work.

    The sticking point has been how to pay for it. Until now.

    Successful funding and completion of these projects will mean trains hitting 110 m.p.h. on more than 200 miles of track along the Detroit-to-Chicago corridor — ranked by transportation planners as one of the most viable high speed rail routes outside of the coasts.

    The Michigan Department of Transportation estimates they could complete the needed upgrades in less than 24 months. Once completed, metro Detroiters could zip to Chicago in four hours or less, shaving 1.5 hours off the current trip.

    The corridor will also have three new or upgraded train stations, paid for with the first round of high speed rail grants.

    Michigan competed successfully against other states for this money. The Federal Rail Administration warned that states needed to show political support for their existing passenger rail systems and a viable way to fund the local match money to draw the federal funds.

    Fortunately, the Michigan legislature showed support for Michigan’s existing passenger rail system. For the first time in years, FY 2011 budgets passed by the state Senate and House fully funded Michigan’s existing passenger rail program from the outset. These commitments strengthened Michigan’s high speed rail grant application and helped us draw the $161 million in federal money for Michigan’s high speed rail route.

    Moreover, the newly elected governors of Ohio and Wisconsin have pledged to reject almost $1.3 billion of federal high speed rail grants. When those grants are reallocated, Michigan could cash in.

    The second opportunity is legislation — HB 6484 — introduced by Rep. Wayne Schmidt, R-Traverse City. This bill would help pay for our portion of the required federal match for high speed rail and other similar projects being developed. It’s critical that the state senate pass this bill and the governor sign it into law.

    These funding opportunities could put our state on track. It’s a game changer for Michigan. Republicans and Democrats, chambers of commerce, labor, local governments and environmental groups are now speaking the same language.

    The window of opportunity is closing. Urge your state senator to support HB 6484 so we can draw $161 million in federal rail funds (and perhaps more) and start building the regional rail we’ve talked about for so long.

  7. Train Rider
    Posted December 3, 2010 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

    Does anyone know how this turned out? Was it brought to the floor for a vote?

  8. Pete Murdock
    Posted December 5, 2010 at 11:18 am | Permalink

    Unfortunately, the bill did not pass the Senate. It seemed to have a lot of support, but the clock ran out. It will be brought up again in next year’s session. If action is take by Spring to provide the match to the Federal money, we still be able to move on. Stay tuned.
    Link to Michigan by Rail posting on the issue

  9. Meta
    Posted December 13, 2010 at 11:16 am | Permalink

    An editorial from the Free Press:

    News from Washington in October that the state would get $150 million to develop a high-speed railway between Kalamazoo and Dearborn brought a welcome push to Michigan’s efforts to build a 21st-Century transportation system. But the federal government can’t help those states that won’t help themselves. Michigan now faces the very real prospect of losing the grant because the Legislature failed to set aside the required 20% local match.

    It’s an ominous portent for the road ahead — if Michigan doesn’t find a better way to fund state transportation needs. Yes, that effort must include improving efficiency and working to get a fair share of dollars from Washington. But unless Michigan wants to watch hundreds of millions of dollars of federal grants fly to other states, it also means an overdue increase in the state gas tax.

    Michigan’s inability to fix its transportation funding problems was undoubtedly one reason the state received only about half of the $308 million it requested to purchase and upgrade 135 miles of track. Even the $150 million the federal government committed would have enabled Michigan to prepare roughly 60 miles of track for high-speed service. That would have cut commute times in the 280-mile corridor between Detroit and Chicago by about 15 minutes, giving Amtrak and the state an improvement to promote.

    The time is right. This year, nearly 480,000 passengers rode Amtrak Wolverine trains on the Detroit-Chicago corridor, up 8% from a year ago. Passengers on the Blue Water train — serving Port Huron, East Lansing and Chicago — rose more than 18% to nearly 158,000.

    Besides the $150 million for high-speed rail service, Michigan was awarded $3.2 million to plan for 110-m.p.h. passenger service on the Amtrak route between Chicago and Detroit. Another $7.9 million was set for the West Detroit connections project, connecting the Chicago-Detroit high-speed line to the Detroit New Center station. The federal grants were scheduled to roll into Michigan early next year, said Tim Hoeffner of the Michigan Department of Transportation.

    Now, unless the next Legislature acts quickly, or the Department of Transportation finds another way to secure the local match of about $35 million, more than $160 million will hit the road to other states. Gov.-elect Rick Snyder must make sure that doesn’t happen.

    More broadly, Snyder must show far more leadership than his predecessor in finding a way to pay for a transportation system that will help put Michigan’s economy in overdrive.

    Read more: http://www.freep.com/article/20101213/OPINION01/12130315/Michigan-at-risk-of-losing-rail-funds#ixzz180cUJyNk

  10. MH Ahlman
    Posted December 28, 2010 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

    A lot of fucking good it did. I have no faith in our legislature. I think it’s coming time to leave this state…Cheers, Mate!

  11. Lucilla Willians
    Posted January 24, 2011 at 9:59 am | Permalink

    I believe the bill has be reintroduced.

  12. Pete Murdock
    Posted January 24, 2011 at 11:00 am | Permalink

    Rep. Wayne Schmidt re-introduced his rail bonding bill from last session (now HB 4035). This bill authorizes existing bonding authority to match the $161 million in HSR funds we were awarded last fall. Michigan will forgo this money – and the significant improvements to our statewide passenger rail system it will build – without the match. Co-sponsored by Rep.s Tyler and MacMasters.

  13. Edward
    Posted January 24, 2011 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

    Any word from Snyder or his transportation czar Mike Finney on what they’d like to see happen?

2 Trackbacks

  1. […] are beginning to worry that we may suffer the same fate here, in Michigan, where out state Senate, despite all of our calls, have been reluctant to vote on a House measure that would make available $35 million in matching […]

  2. […] bill in the Michigan Senate. (We discussed it in depth at the end of the last legislative session here.) The bill, introduced by Rep. Wayne Schmidt, is now HB 4035, and, if passed, would allow us to […]

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