The city of Ann Arbor has released an alternatives analysis report on potential locations for a new Amtrak station. The city began exploring site options in 2012, after receiving a $2.8 million federal rail grant which will cover 80 percent of the project funds.
The report comes after City Council voted 6-5 against publicly releasing a draft copy of it in June. The initial public release date was set for summer 2015, but was delayed at the time without further explanation.
The final analysis of rail options included four proposed locations. Three of the designs propose a rail site on Depot Street. A fourth design proposes Fuller Road. All locations were chosen based on several criteria, including ample parking space and multi-modal access areas for buses, taxis and bicycles.
One of the Depot Street designs, Design 2A, would be constructed on the site of the existing Amtrak station which sits on the west side of the Broadway Bridge.This design would provide equal pedestrian walking distances to both platforms.
In contrast, Design 2B would be built west of the Broadway Bridge on the ground level. A weather-protected concourse above the tracks would attach to the station, placing one platform adjacent to the facility and the other across the tracks.
Design 2C, the last proposed plan for Depot street, would repurpose the historic Michigan Central Depot, currently occupied by the Gandy Dancer restaurant. The depot, once considered the most important railroad station between Detroit and Chicago, has been listed in the National Register of Historic Places since 1975. Design 2C would modify and expand the historic building to fit modern standards. Like 2B, one platform will be adjacent to the station while another is connected by a concourse.
Design 3A is located near Fuller Park, north of the University of Michigan Medical Campus. The station would be built above the tracks, but a parking structure would replace an existing parking lot for University of Michigan faculty and parkgoers.
According to the report, other designs were submitted with a Fuller Road location, but they violated the City’s practice of minimizing the use of recreational land for train station development, a policy supported by public comment. As such, designs 3B, 3C and 3D — all estimated to use 3.5 acres of the park and the current parking lot — were rejected for excessively encroaching on recreational parkland and increasing environmental damage.
The next step for the train station is a public meeting that will be held later this month. Comments from the meeting will be included in an environmental assessment that studies the environmental impacts of each alternative — consistent with National Environmental Policy Act requirements — and identifies a preferred alternative.
A 30-day public comment period will follow soon after, and responses will be recorded. If no significant environmental impacts are found, the FRA may give it a Finding of No Significant Impact. This signifies the completion of the environmental impact process of the project pursuant to NEPA.
After the completion of the environmental phase, residents will have the opportunity to offer their input during Preliminary Engineering. Following Preliminary Engineering, the project will enter its Final Design and Construction phases.
This is a developing story. Check back with The Michigan Daily for updates.