The Great Train Station Debate
Hieftje says a vote isn't legally necessary this time, either, since the city would be repurposing and not selling the land. But it appears to be the project's only chance. The mayor is turning to the people now, says Third Ward councilmember Steve Kunselman, because "he's lost the majority control of council."
A former real estate agent, the mayor offers an enthusiastic pitch for the new station. "We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity," Hieftje says. "There's $400 million coming to Michigan from the feds--Amtrak is fixing the line between Chicago and Detroit for 100-miles-per-hour service, and new cars and new engines have been ordered. They're talking to us about adding two more trains--we have three now, and that'd bring us up to five trains daily--because they foresee a doubling of ridership in the next ten years.
"In addition, MDOT bought a train and is set to go with a commuter route," he says. Well, not quite set to go. No one has yet stepped forward to fund commuter rail, so MDOT's only immediate plans for the equipment are to show it off in some demonstration runs later this year. "But the Amtrak service is the big reason," the mayor emails. "Even with their current undependable service, AMTRAK is outgrowing the station, and they will need a new station before long. It already overflows on busy days and it absolutely will not work for commuters, as it is very hard for buses given the design and the traffic jams on Depot at rush hour."