Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak’

Amtrak Panel Recommends Chicago Rail Fixes

October 3, 2015

Amtrak’s Chicago Gateway Blue Ribbon Panel is calling for bringing together rail traffic control dispatchers that are now scattered across the country, improving operating practices by Amtrak and other railroads, and funding for priority projects in northern Illinois and Indiana.

The panel also released a study that concluded that rail congestion in Chicago poses the greatest potential economic vulnerability to the economy of all the major U.S. rail hubs.

Chicago has been dubbed America’s “rail traffic speed bump,” creating an economic vulnerability of up to $799 billion every year.

“The panel interviewed experts with the freight-rail industry, Metra commuter rail, the states of Illinois, Indiana and Michigan and others and the verdict was unanimous: the implications of failing to act are dire for the economy of the nation in general and the Chicago area in particular,” said Amtrak President and Chief Executive Officer Joseph Boardman.

The panel said its recommended fixes are expensive but without actions rail gridlock will only get worse.

The panel recommended:
• Coordinate in real time operations among Chicago’s railroads, including coordinated dispatching.
• Continue efforts to improve operational performance in the Chicago terminal.
• Obtain adequate and sustained public funding for vital projects.
• Give priority to the CREATE 75th Street Corridor and Grand Crossing projects.
• Make additional investments in Chicago-Porter, Indiana, corridor.
• Seek innovative financing through the federal Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing loan program.
• Provide consistent environmental review requirements among all transportation modes with priorities given to projects of national importance.

The report can be found

Locomotive Issues Sideline Hoosier State

October 1, 2015

Locomotive issues forced the cancellation of five trips of the Hoosier State over the past week.

The cancellations resulted after an inspection found defects in one of two GP40FH-2 locomotives used by Iowa Pacific to operate the Chicago-Indianapolis passenger train. The canceled trips occurred between Sept. 23 and 29.

Trains magazine reported that an Amtrak inspector “bad ordered” an IP locomotive because springs on one of the locomotive’s trucks were not seated properly and needed adjustment.

Two other Iowa Pacific units are out of service, one of which has been waiting for a new air compressor for more than a week.

The inspection occurred just before IP No. 4144 was set to deadhead with other Iowa Pacific equipment on the rear of Amtrak’s Cardinal on Sept. 22.

No. 4144 could not be left behind because the head-end power generator wasn’t operable on the other Iowa Pacific engine in the consist.

Amtrak repaired the IP locomotive in Chicago. As the repairs were being made, chartered buses replaced the Hoosier State on the Sept. 23 southbound trip and the Sept. 25 northbound trek.

The Hoosier State made four trips between Sept. 25 and last Monday, but an inspector hired by the State of Indiana found other defects not discovered in previous Amtrak and Federal Railroad Administration inspections.

These included windshield glass that had been installed backwards.

As a result, passengers were back on the bus Monday evening, Tuesday morning and on both Wednesday trips.

The Hoosier State operates on days that Amtrak’s Chicago-New York Cardinal does not operate.

The Cardinal operates in both directions on Thursday so the Hoosier State is slated to next operate on Friday in both directions.

Toledo Station to Observe 65th Anniversary

September 22, 2015

Toledo Central Union Terminal will mark its 65th anniversary today with a ceremony and exhibits.

Speakers at the ceremony will include Toledo-Lucas County Port President Paul Toth and U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur.

The event will run from 5 to 8 p.m., with refreshments being served. Among the planned exhibits and guests are:

  • Byron “Barney” Stickles, a former terminal agent and telegrapher with the Wabash Railroad, one of the four carriers using the station when it opened.
  • The Toledo History Museum and Steve Rathke, a current railroad engineer, both showing items from Central Union Terminal memorabilia collections.
  • The Northwest Ohio Passenger Rail Association, with information about efforts to promote passenger rail in the region.
  • The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, with an exhibit about rail labor past and present.
  • Railroad artist Gary Cornell.
  • An exhibit of photographs from the archives of The Blade — the daily newspaper in Toledo — of  the dedication ceremony held on Sept. 22, 1950.
  • Model trains depicting the four railroads that served the station when it opened, including the Wabash, Baltimore & Ohio, Chesapeake & Ohio and New York Central.

“It’s important to discuss the history of passenger trains, as well as the future of passenger trains and the importance of rail in our community,” said Holly Kemler, the port authority’s communications manager.

Toledo Central Union Terminal was built by the New York Central and turned out to be the last major urban railroad station built by a private railroad in the United States.

At the time that it opened, the terminal served more than four dozen trains. Today four Amtrak trains use the facility.

Also using the terminal are local transit system buses and intercity buses that connect with Amtrak trains. In spring 2016, Greyhound bus lines will begin using the facility, which since 2001 has been named Martin Luther King, Jr. Plaza.

After Amtrak took over most of the nation’s intercity passenger trains on May 1, 1971, the station was idle.

A short-lived Chicago-New York train began shortly after Amtrak began, but was discontinued in early January 1972 after the states along the route failed to come up with money to underwrite the route’s losses.

Amtrak returned in Toledo in October 1975 when the Lake Shore Limited began operating between Chicago and New York/Boston. Amtrak’s Chicago-Washington, D.C., Capitol Limited also serves the station.

During the 1980s and early 1990s, Amtrak had a Chicago-Toledo train via Detroit named the Lake Cities.

During the Amtrak era, Central Union Terminal continued to serve as a division headquarters for Penn Central and then Conrail.

After moving its offices out of the building in 1995, Conrail sold the terminal to the port authority for $23,000.

The port authority spent $5.5 million to renovate the terminal, which had a grand reopening on Sept. 22, 1996.

At one point, the port authority had to talk Amtrak out of abandoning the facility for a smaller station in Toledo.

Although the renovation of the terminal included bus bays on the west side of the building for Greyhound, that company refused to use them.

Greyhound said it didn’t want to break its lease for its current station at 811 Jefferson Ave. and company practice prohibits backing out of a bus bay and onto a busy street, as it would need to do.

When Greyhound begins using the terminal, its buses will stop along Emerald Avenue in front of the station.

Greyhound currently has 25 daily bus departures for Detroit, Cleveland, Chicago, Cincinnati, Columbus and Indianapolis.

The addition of Greyhound will mean activity in a facility that is closed between mid-morning and late afternoon.

Amtrak ‘Great Dome’ to Return to Adirondack

September 22, 2015

Amtrak’s only remaining dome car will begin six-week seasonal service on the New York-Montreal Adirondack. The “Great Dome” will operate between Sept. 24 and Nov. 3.

The car has upper level windows on all sides. Among the sights to see are Lake Champlain and the Adirondack Mountains.

The dome car will operate northbound from Albany to Montreal on Thursdays, Saturdays and Mondays and return south from Montreal on Fridays, Sundays, and Tuesdays. The dome car will not operate on Wednesdays.

Passengers are welcome to ride in the car at no extra cost. Seats are unreserved and available on a first-come, first-served basis.

When available, Trails and Rails volunteers will be aboard select dome car trips to offer commentary about the history of the route between Saratoga Springs and Westport, New York.

Passengers can also take advantage of the I Love NY 15 percent discount off the regular (full) adult rail fare, valid for sale through May 2016. Reservations are required. Up to two children ages 2-12 may accompany each adult at half the discounted rail fare.

An Hour Late? That is Actually Good News

September 19, 2015
The eastbound Lake Shore Limited is gaining speed as it charges toward Bort Road on Track No. 1 of the CSX Erie West Subdivision at North East, Pennsylvania.

The eastbound Lake Shore Limited is gaining speed as it charges toward
Bort Road on Track No. 1 of the CSX Erie West Subdivision at North East, Pennsylvania.

This is a story about one of those rare days when Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited was an hour late and I was quite happy about it.

Of course Nos. 48 and 49 are frequently late, hence their nickname of the “Late Shore Limited.”

Yet No. 48 tends to be on time or nearly on time leaving Cleveland.

During the long days of summer you can catch No. 48 east of town in good morning light. But once it gets to be late summer, you about have to go to Pennsylvania to get No. 48 in morning light unless it is running very late.

On this day, No. 48 was about an hour late out of Cleveland. Our plan was to catch it at Bort Road in North East, Pennsylvania.

The scheduled departure time for the eastbound Lake Shore Limited out of Erie is 7:20 p.m. That would put it at Bort Road about 15 minutes later.

We got to Bort Road in plenty of time to photograph No. 48 even if it had been on time.

The sun wasn’t quite up yet and some clouds were in the area. Hence, had No. 48 been on time, the lighting would have been OK, but not great.

CSX had track No. 2 shut down for tie replacement. That meant No. 48 had to stop, get permission from the foreman to pass through the work zone — which extended into New York State — and move at 25 mph for about three miles.

The end of the 25 mph speed restriction was about a mile north of Bort Road, so about the time lead P42DC No. 11 got to our position the train was accelerating.

The sun has also risen high enough to bathe the Amtrak train in brilliant early morning light.

Within a half-hour after No. 48’s passage, a bank of clouds rolled in off Lake Erie and it was cloudy and overcast the rest of the morning.

But during the window when the Lake Shore Limited passed through, the weather could not have been any better.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

The wide angle perspective as No. 48 is about to pass beneath Bort Road.

The wide angle perspective as No. 48 is about to pass beneath Bort Road.

The Viewliner baggage car behind the two P42DC locomotives is brand new. The three VIewliner sleepers are not so new. The dining car that is partially visible is a senior citizen by now.

The Viewliner baggage car behind the two P42DC locomotives is brand new. The three VIewliner sleepers are not so new. The dining car that is partially visible is a senior citizen by now.

Stretched out and gleaming in the morning sun.

Stretched out and gleaming in the morning sun.

PennDOT Wants Another Pittsburgh Train

September 19, 2015

Amtrak has been asked to institute a second roundtrip between Pittsburgh and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Citing strong ridership on the current New York-Pittsburgh Pennsylvanian, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation has asked Amtrak to increase service.

Amtrak is studying the logistics and expenses of launching the service.

About 149,000 people boarded and departed Amtrak trains in Pittsburgh in 2014.

The Pennsylvanian is funded in large part by PennDOT.

Amtrak Brand Campaign Focuses on Story Telling

September 15, 2015

Amtrak has launched a new nationwide brand campaign titled “500 Destinations: Infinite Stories.”

The passenger carrier said the campaign was inspired by passengers’ travel experiences and is seeking to create top-of-mind awareness while showcasing the comfort, freedom, service and value of train travel.

“The storytelling at the heart of the campaign focuses on the unique experiences and adventures only rail travel can provide,” Amtrak said in a news release. “Whether it’s a trip to college, a business trip with colleagues, a girls’ weekend, or a dream vacation across the country, Amtrak takes you there.”

Amtrak said it is playing up rail travel as a smarter way to travel because it offers passengers the opportunity to relax and stretch out, move about freely and work or play.

“Amtrak’s new campaign speaks to the uniquely enjoyable experience of rail travel,” said Darlene Abubakar, Amtrak’s acting vice president of brand management and marketing. “We are reinvigorating the Amtrak brand by celebrating thousands of travel experiences while simultaneously reinforcing what longtime Amtrak loyalists love about America’s Railroad: comfort, convenience and a commitment to excellent customer service.”

The campaign will provide messages across a variety of media platforms, including TV, print, digital and social media.

Amtrak created the campaign in coordination with its advertising agency, FCB Garfinkel of New York.

Amtrak Offering Buy 1, Get 1 at 50% Off Coach Tickets For December Lake Shore Limited Travel

September 4, 2015

Amtrak is offering a buy one and get one at 50 percent off companion fare to all destinations served by the Lake Shore Limited between Chicago and New York.

Passengers must purchase one regular full fare adult coach ticket to qualify for the discounted companion fare. Reservations must be booked by Sept. 30 for travel Dec. 1-18.

Seating is limited and seats may not be available on all days. Fares are subject to availability. The companion and full fare passenger must travel together on the same itinerary and have tickets issued together.

Tickets are non-refundable but exchanges are permitted prior to the original travel date. The fare is subject to other terms and conditions.


Bike Program to begin on Capitol Limited

August 29, 2015

Amtrak plans to begin allowing passengers to take bicycles aboard the Chicago-Washington, D.C., Capitol Limited.

Although no date has been set, an Amtrak spokesperson said it could be as early as next week.

Passengers with bikes must have a reservation and pay a $25 fee for the service. For some, that might exceed the price of the ticket.

Amtrak’s website shows that roll-on service is available on nine of its routes. Of those, four offer the service for free, two have a $5 fee and three have a $10 fee.

Bicyclists will also be responsible for taking their bikes aboard the train, securing them and removing them once they’ve reached their destination.

The service will be available at all stations served by Nos. 29 and 30 with only standard-sized bikes permitted on board.

The service has been particularly anticipated in Pittsburgh, which is the western terminus of a trail that extends to Washington.

Two major bicycle trails – the Great Allegheny Passage and the C&O Towpath – run parallel to the route of the Capitol Limited east of Pittsburgh.

Amtrak expressed interest in providing the service five years ago and ran a one-day test with 20 bicyclists in October 2013

At present, Amtrak policies require that bicycles be dismantled and packed in boxes that can only be loaded or unloaded at staffed stations.

There are no staffed stations between Pittsburgh and Washington. Other staffed stations on the route include Cleveland, Toledo and South Bend, Indiana.

In the past, Amtrak has cited a litany of reasons why it has not implemented a bike aboard program on the Capitol Limited until now.

Deborah Stone-Wulf, Amtrak’s chief of sales distribution and customer service, addressed those in a guest blog post for the Adventure Cycling Association’s website ( last year.

“We understand and appreciate the synergies between rail and bike travel, and continue to work hard to better serve the bicycling community,” she wrote. “We, however, have many challenges, primarily with our core infrastructure. Among the key issues are finding space for bicycles on our trains and developing the ability to safely and efficiently load and unload bicycles.

“Much of Amtrak’s fleet is quite old with many cars more than 40 years old and bikes were not a consideration during the original design. The good news here is new equipment for long distance trains is on the way, featuring design elements that will help on this front. That still won’t help with our station platforms, however, which are of varying heights and present an obstacle for loading and unloading bicycles.”

Sara Snow, travel initiatives coordinator for the Adventure Cycling Association, based in Missoula, Montana, said her organization worked with Amtrak in identifying the Capitol Limited as one of two eastern routes that would test roll-on service. The other is the Vermonter.

Snow said that many of the organization’s 48,000 members use Amtrak to travel to or from biking excursions.

“We identified [roll-on service] as a huge need for making bicycle traveling easier. People have been advocating for this for a long time,” she said.

One Needed Money, Another Needed a Building. The 40-Year Saga of Ann Arbor’s Michigan Central Depot Continues to Affect Rail Passengers Today

August 23, 2015
The Michigan Central station in Ann Arbor as it looks today.

The Michigan Central station in Ann Arbor as it looks today. “Gandy Dancer” by Sally – originally posted to Flickr as Amtrak station, Ann Arbor. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Commons –

A westbound Wolverine Service train in May 2012 passes the crumbling remains of the platform in front of the former Michigan Central station in Ann Arbor. The edge of the addition to the station, which is now a restaurant, can be seen at the far right.

A westbound Wolverine Service train in May 2012 passes the crumbling remains of the platform in front of the former Michigan Central station in Ann Arbor. The edge of the addition to the station, which is now a restaurant, can be seen at the far right.

A concrete stairway leads from Broadway to the Amtrak station in Ann Arbor. A Wolverine No. 350 has just arrived on July 24, 2009.

A concrete stairway leads from Broadway to the Amtrak station in Ann Arbor. A Wolverine No. 350 has just arrived on July 24, 2009.

Penn Central needed money. Detroit restaurateur Chuck Muer needed a building in which to open a restaurant in Ann Arbor, Michigan. More than 40 years later the intersection of interests continues to hold implications for rail passengers.

At the center of the story is a grand Romanesque railroad station opened in 1887 by the Michigan Central Railroad.

Designed with castle-like walls by Detroit architect Frederick Spier, the station was called the finest on the MC’s route between Chicago and Buffalo, New York.

But by 1969, Penn Central passenger patronage in Ann Arbor had shrunk to about 25 a day.

The financially beleaguered PC didn’t need a grand depot to serve the nine trains a day that used the station. some of which were commuter runs to Detroit that didn’t operate on weekends.

When Muer offered to buy the station, Penn Central agreed to sell it and in 1970 a seafood restaurant named the Gandy Dancer opened there.

At the time, many viewed Muer as a hero for saving a building in which much local history was vested and which had been neglected by the New York Central and Penn Central.

Former Ann Arbor Mayor Lou Belcher recalled walking the site with Muer and looking at what would later become the restaurant’s main dining room.

He described it as nothing but dirt, poles, railroad ties and equipment.”It was filthy,” Belcher said.

As for Penn Central passengers, they were forced to use a former express office just east of the Broadway Bridge.

“It had a ticket office, restrooms and a waiting area furnished with an old wooden bench with seating for 12 passengers,” said Clark Charnetski, an Ann Arbor resident and former chairman of the Michigan Association of Railroad Passengers.

At the time, the outlook for intercity rail passenger service, particularly on routes operated by Penn Central, was bleak.

PC announced in March 1970 that it would end all intercity passenger service west of Buffalo and Pittsburgh.

The Interstate Commerce Commission stalled that plan, but in June when Penn Central filed for bankruptcy protection, Congress moved to create Amtrak.

When Amtrak took over on May 1, 1971, it kept just four trains between Chicago and Detroit. Penn Central continued to operate the Ann Arbor-Detroit commuter trains.

And passengers continued to wait for trains in that tiny station area in the former express building.

Then Amtrak improved the service and patronage quickly grew.

In 1975, the Michigan Department of Transportation agreed to fund the Detroit commuter trains and Amtrak agreed to operate them.

Named the Michigan Executive, the trains began originating in Jackson and also served Chelsea and Ypsilanti.

In truth, those trains had always originated there because Penn Central had a crew base there. The trains just deadheaded between Jackson and Ann Arbor.

MDOT also built a 75-space parking lot west of the Broadway Bridge where the present Amtrak station is situated today.

Patronage kept growing and the small station, which was cramped even during the Penn Central era, became even more crowded.

Then Muer said he wanted to expand the former Michigan Central station. Battle lines were being drawn and something had to give.

* * * * *

Many in a community tend to get nostalgic when talking about their city’s railroad station even if they have never used it for train travel or haven’t been in it for many years.

Ann Arbor is no exception and many continue to extol the virtues of the past for a building that has been extensively re-purposed.

Of course, there was a time when the Michigan Central station played a central role in Ann Arbor life.

A historic marker at the station grounds says that enthusiastic crowds gathered to see presidents, prominent politicians and visiting dignitaries, some of whom spoke from the rear platforms of trains.

University of Michigan football teams left from there to play games in far-flung stadiums in the Big Ten conference.

Cheering crowds welcomed home or sent off troops in shows of patriotic fervor. Distinguished lecturers and concert artists arrived to perform at the University of Michigan or other venues in town.

In the 1960 presidential election, John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon both spoke at the depot.

Also making whistle stops in Ann Arbor over the years were Teddy Roosevelt, Grover Cleveland, William Howard Taft, William Jennings Bryan and even Winston Churchill.

The station’s interior featured ornate waiting rooms, an elaborate ticket booth, red oak ceilings and trim, French tile floors, stained glass windows and a large terra cotta fireplace. The grounds outside included a garden with a fountain.

Two smaller buildings, a railway express office and a baggage facility, were connected to the depot by a metal canopy.

That is how the station is often described and while it looked like that during the heyday of rail travel, it was much less attractive by the late 1960s.

“Some local historians say that Muer saved the old station, but it is my understanding that there was never any threat to its existence,” Charnetski said. “Similar stations in Jackson, Battle Creek, Kalamazoo and Niles were never torn down. With the exception of Battle Creek, those other stations are now used by Amtrak.”

Amtrak was painfully aware of the limitations of the station facilities that it inherited from Penn Central.

Some thought that Amtrak was eyeing taking over the former Michigan Central station, which was designated a historical site by the Michigan Historical Commission in 1974 and then entered on the National Register of Historic Places.

A city commissioner even warned Muer at a ceremony to “watch out for the Amtrak wolves who might want the station back.”

Amtrak was testing French-built Turboliners on the Chicago-Detroit route and permanently assigned the new equipment there on April 10, 1075. When a second Turboliner was added on April 27, Amtrak launched a third Chicago-Detroit roundtrip, bringing service between the two cities to six trains a day.

Passengers liked the equipment and ridership in May 1975 was up 40 percent over that of April. By July, so many wanted to ride the Turboliners that as many as 100 had to stand in the aisles on weekend trips.

The growth in the Chicago-Detroit corridor coincided with a plan by Muer to build an addition to the station, a plan that divided the folks of Ann Arbor between late 1975 and 1976. The city council ultimately voted to allow the expansion, despite protests from historic preservationists.

Muer expanded the Gandy Dancer’s dining and kitchen facilities by enclosing the space between the main building and the former baggage station, which was then used for storage.

He also installed a new glassed-in dining area beneath the metal canopy on the track side.

The expanded restaurant opened in September 1976.

* * * * *

For its part, Amtrak sought in 1978 to enlarge its waiting room by glassing in the canopy between the express building and the depot  in a manner similar to what the Gandy Dancer had done with the restaurant portion.

Workers tore off the glass entrance to the small Amtrak station and poured concrete footings for the addition.

But Muer objected to the work, saying the number of passengers using the station had grown to 250 a day by 1975 and there wasn’t enough parking. In response, the city issued a stop-work order and a small station became even smaller.

Many passengers were forced to wait for trains outside in the cold and snow.

As a makeshift solution, Amtrak bought an old surplus portable classroom building from the Ann Arbor schools and installed it beneath the Broadway Bridge to serve as an overflow waiting room.

In 1979, MDOT asked the Michigan passenger advocacy group if Ann Arbor needed a new station. By now Ann Arbor was the second heaviest used Amtrak station in Michigan. Of course it did, but where would it be located?

Following a June 1979 meeting between MDOT and city officials, a committee was formed to recommend a station site.

On the committee were representatives of the city, MDOT, Amtrak, the University of Michigan, Greyhound and other interested parties, including the Michigan Association of Railroad Passengers.

Pollack Design Associates of Ann Arbor conducted a 98-page study that was released in November 1979.

It examined a number of locations, but the parking lot for commuters that MDOT had built on Depot Street was favored.

Congressman Carl Pursell obtained a federal earmark for the new Amtrak station, which was built in 1983. The site included a 100-space parking lot across the tracks.

A year later, the Michigan Executive was discontinued. Since then, Amtrak service through Ann Arbor has remained at six trains a day. For the past several years, the service has operated under the Wolverine Service moniker.

* * * * *

Although on the small side, the 1983 station is still used and is the busiest Amtrak station in Michigan, seeing 147,093 passengers in 2014, a 31 percent increased over a decade earlier.

In many ways, Ann Arbor is in the same situation it was in the late 1970s with an Amtrak station that many, including the current city administration, views as inadequate to meet the city’s present and future needs.

MDOT purchased from Norfolk Southern the tracks between Dearborn and Kalamazoo used by the Wolverines and has launched a track rehabilitation campaign to boost train speeds and cut the running times.

State officials are talking about expanding the number of trains between Chicago and Detroit with up to 10 roundtrips a day the long-term goal.

There also are discussions about restarting Ann Arbor-Detroit commuter service, although that is not imminent.

The city is again studying sites for a new station, which is expected to largely be funded by the federal government and built in 2017-2018.

“Today we have a similar choice of what to do,” Charnetski says of the process of studying potential sites for a new Amtrak station.

One of those options would be to do what some feared Amtrak wanted to do in the middle 1970s and take over the former Michigan Central station.

Because the station is privately owned, taking it over and re-configuring it for transportation use is not all that simple.

But the idea continues to glow in the minds of some with those dreams driven in part by nostalgia.

City Council Member Sabra Briere said she’s fascinated by the idea of having the depot becoming a train station again.

“There were a lot of really bad decisions made in the history of time, and many people would say that was a bad decision,” she said of letting the depot become a restaurant.

Former mayor Belcher understands the affinity that many have for the former station because it is part of the city’s history.

“I know at one time it meant a lot to the whole city, because that’s basically where all the U of M alumni, students, football traffic, everything else, came into Ann Arbor,” he said. “So many people who first came to Ann Arbor used that train station.”

But Belcher opposes converting the depot back to a train station and expressed doubt that the currently owner of the restaurant, Landry’s Inc., would agreed to it.

“It’s a hell of a place to eat,” Belcher said of the Gandy Dancer, noting it’s packed on Sundays for brunch, and patrons cheer and clap whenever trains pass.

“My view of historical buildings is that if a lot of people use them and enjoy them and revel in their history, that’s historical preservation,” Belcher said. “They can build another train station anywhere they want. That’s the Gandy Dancer now.”

Rail advocate Charnetski takes a similar position. He thinks that the best solution would be to build a new station on Fuller Road.

“I personally favor the Fuller Road site, mainly because of its location on the most important bus transit route in Michigan and its proximity to the [University of Michigan] Medical Center,” Charnetski said.

The Fuller Road site is also along the proposed route of the Ann Arbor Connector, a high-capacity intracity transit system that’s in the planning stages.

Acknowledging that three decades ago he favored a Depot Street location, Charnetski noted that the Fuller Road location would require using city parkland. But he said circumstances have changed and so has his opinion.

* * * * *

Eli Cooper is Ann Arbor’s transportation program manager. He said the city is looking at using the former Michigan Central station because the FRA asked it to do so.

“They requested the same level of concept planning and cost estimation as the other sites remaining in the analysis,” Cooper said.

But that also includes the current site of the existing Amtrak station on Depot Street. Although there has been talk for years of a new Amtrak station in Ann Arbor, the latest efforts only began in 2014.

The city had ruled out using the former Michigan Central station and instead focused on the Fuller Road site or the existing Amtrak station site.

Then the FRA handed down an edict to include the former Michigan Central station in the study.

Cooper said the project team had already included a study of the MC station location as part of the environmental review process.

“We submitted materials to the FRA including information about the (Gandy Dancer) site,” he said. “The FRA requested we continue to evaluate this location as part of the environmental review. They asked that we develop concept plans and costs associated with use of the (Gandy Dancer) as one of the alternatives.”

A reporter for the Ann Arbor News has sought comment from the owner of the Gandy Dancer, but has yet to receive a reply.

The city recently submitted to MDOT a preliminary report about sites for the proposed new Amtrak station.

But officials are being tight-lipped on which site they favor, saying that they expect to hold public hearings this fall.

Chuck Muer, the restaurant owner who started this process decades ago by buying the Michigan Central station from Penn Central, won’t be around to see the outcome.

Muer, whose fine dining restaurant empire grew to more than 20 seafood restaurants, vanished in 1993 after setting sail from the Bahamas in a 40-foot sailboat. No trace of him and his boat, Charley’s Crab, were ever found.


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