Ann Arbor residents emphasized several concerns with the city’s plans for a new Amtrak station during two public meetings Monday evening.
The city hosted the public meetings to discuss the recently released Alternatives Analysis Report, which suggested four possible sites for the new train station — three of which reside on Depot Street and the fourth on Fuller Road. The locations were chosen based on several criteria, such as ample parking space and access areas for buses and taxis. Plans for the new train station have been in progress since 2012 to relocate the current station to a more accessible location.
The meeting began with a presentation from AECOM, the firm in charge of the project, led by AECOM Project Manager Robert Gorski, who gave a brief overview of the four potential sites.
Gorski explained that all four sites would have similar features, such as new traffic lights, buses and the need to acquire property from DTE, but the Fuller station would require a taller parking structure than the three other proposed Depot Street locations.
After the presentation, Gorski opened the floor to questions along with Eli Cooper, Ann Arbor transportation manager. Members of the public asked about several aspects of the project, including the timeline for it and when the station would open.
Cooper stressed that there is currently no way to properly estimate an opening date due to a number of unknown variables, such as the timeline for submitting and receiving authorization from the federal government for funding.
Many members of the public present also expressed concern that the expected cost of each proposed site has not been considering in the narrowing down process. Cooper and Gorski said cost is not a concern at this current stage of planning.
“The cost for developing the project element is irrelevant for the phase we are in now,” Cooper said.
Cooper and Gorski, as well as officials from the Federal Railroad Association, who were not available for comment, also addressed the public’s concern over potential repurposing of park land and the Gandy Dancer restaurant on Depot Street.
Two of the four possible station designs are both at the location of the current Amtrak station on Depot Street. One of the design options is for an elevated station. The other is for a ground level station north of the tracks.
Several members of the public also spoke during the meeting to share what site they found most desireable. Eric Lipson, Ann Arbor citizen and former member of the Planning Commission, spoke in favor of one of the Depot Street locations, detailing how he believes Ann Arbor has grown out of the original location on Depot Street in Gandy Dancer.
Other arguments were made in favor of the Fuller location because of its potential to support a link to commuter rail.
Several attendees also commented on the planning process itself. William Allen Simpson, a former Ann Arbor citizen, told officials he was happy the city and Federal Rail Association would be doing a comprehensive environmental report before moving forward.
“All the things that people are saying — this site is better for this or that — that’s what the environmental analysis is all about,” Simpson said.