Closely Watched Trains
"No passenger train had run the route in decades," he recalls. "I wanted to demonstrate it could be done.
"I had been working with our staff on the idea of a north-south rail line for over a year before Great Lakes Central took over the rights to the rail line north of Ann Arbor in the spring of 2006," he continues. "This opened the door to making something happen--Lou Ferris of Great Lakes Central Railroad was an obvious partner."
Hieftje is the kind of guy who gets excited by green technology, from the solar panels at the Farmers' Market to the living roof planned atop the City Hall addition. Though Ferris's main business is financial services, the Superior Township resident also has a strong interest in commuter trains: he not only bought the railroad that hauls freight on the state-owned tracks north of town, he purchased dozens of passenger cars as well.
While Ferris put together the train, Hieftje sent out invitations to sixty local leaders. And on June 15, 2006, the mayor, the entrepreneur, and their guests boarded at Traver Road for a ride to Eight Mile Road in Whitmore Lake.