Ann Arbor Officials Expect to Name Preferred Site by January for New Amtrak Station

A consultant hired by the city of Ann Arbor, Michigan, said local officials want to get resolved by early next year a preferred site for a new Amtrak station.

Robert Gorski of AECOM told a public hearing held on Monday that the city is working with the Michigan Department of Transportation and Federal Railroad Administration to choose a preferred site by January and complete an environmental assessment that must be approved by the FRA.

Amtrak’s Chicago-Detroit Wolverine Service trains currently stop in Ann Arbor at a modular station built by Amtrak in 1983.

Amtrak 4Therese Cody, the MDOT rail operating programs manager said at the hearing that neither Amtrak or the state wants to own train stations.

MDOT prefers that local communities own their depots.

“Because then they reflect what the community wants the station to be — like you’ve seen Dearborn go up and Detroit go up,” she said. “They’re all a reflection of the community. A lot of times it’s a gateway to the community.” Cody described the current Ann Arbor station as an Amshack.

City officials are studying four station alternatives that include two options at the site of the existing Amtrak station on Depot Street.

Another is to build in Fuller Park in front of the University of Michigan Hospital while the fourth option is to use the former Michigan Central station, which is now a restaurant.

City officials said during the Monday hearing that the corporate owner of the Gandy Dancer restaurant has not returned phone calls inquiring about whether it would be interested in selling its property

However, the city could use its powers of eminent domain to take it over.

Cody noted that federal funding for new stations is provided to communities and not to Amtrak.

“Amtrak doesn’t put a lot of vested interest into their stations, where we believe that a community can make it a little more inviting and provide for the community’s needs,” she said. “Amtrak doesn’t go around and say, ‘Do you guys need a meeting room? Do you guys need this or that?’ They don’t care.”

Gorski said the cost of building a new station at each of the identified sites will be taken into account in selecting a preferred location.

Although the city has not yet released cost estimates for each station option, it projects that the  station design will cost $2.6 million and construction will $44.5 million.

Wherever it is built, the new station will have 9,100 square feet of space and 900-1,100 parking spaces.

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