The city of Ann Arbor and the University announced on Friday that construction of the Fuller Road intermodal transportation station will not continue as designed due to complications with federal funding.
The University intends to still continue to build a parking structure, just no longer on Fuller Road where the initial station was planned to be built. The parking facilities will likely be built somewhere on medical campus, as officials begin to newly conceptualize the project.
Jim Kosteva, the University’s director of community relations, said the complications with federal funds stemmed from issues with a funding match requirement. To qualify for the match, an environmental analysis needs to be completed and the Federal Railroad Association must sanction the plan, Kosteva said.
“(The environmental analysis) is an 18-month process at a minimum,” Kosteva said. “Then you can start the clock applying for the funds for the station construction platforms and other improvements. So we, at the University, are sitting here and we look at this as almost an indefinite period of time.”
Since more than 500 positions were added at the newly-constructed hospitals, in addition to additional room for patients and visitors, Kosteva said the demand is too large to wait for the federal funds to be assigned.
“As much as we have alternative forms of transportation, some people still need to rely on individual transportation and we need to give them a place to park at a reasonable proximity of their place of work,” Kosteva said. “The phone is literally ringing off the hook with concern.”
One issue the University faces is the possibility of losing employees who choose to move to another hospital with easier parking arrangements, Kosteva added.
“These are individuals that now have to come to work 45 minutes or an hour and a half or so early because they have to park and take a shuttle ride to their place of work,” Kosteva said. “This is another 45 minutes or an hour of time added up that they cannot spend with their families.”
He added: “We are still committed to the vision, we still see the value to us and to our sustainable transportation objectives. But, we also have some dramatic and immediate needs with parking for the medical center.”
City Council member Chris Taylor (D–Ward 3) said that though the Fuller Road station plans have changed, the initiative will still continue.
“It has slowed and it has become slightly complicated, but it will move forward, move forward as soon as possible,” Taylor said.
Taylor said the city has shifted its focus to a commuter rail station.
“There is no way to tell right now how long it will take (for federal funding to come in),” Taylor said. “We have $2.8 million right now from the (Federal Railroad Administration) to conduct an environmental assessment and the creation of the drawing which will be a multi-modal station.”
Taylor explained that when the project is redesigned, the number of parking spaces will be reduced.
“The design will be very different because now the design has included over a thousand parking spaces, most for the University,” Taylor said. “The new design will not include that level of parking.”
Taylor added that he estimated that the cost for the station would be about $40 million, with the city paying 20 percent.
“We will reach out to city partners who will benefit from the construction of the station,” Taylor said. “These include the University, the Michigan Department of Transportation and the AATA.”
Taylor continued: “It is a hub of transportation and the Fuller Road station is an ideal area to satisfy that need. It would be a tremendous benefit to Ann Arbor.”
The station was part of a $2.8 million project that would’ve included collaboration from the University, Ann Arbor Transportation Authority, Michigan Department of Transportation, AMTRAK and the Federal Railroad Administration. The initiative was first proposed in 2008 when the University recognized there would be a need for additional parking with the continued expansion and opening of the new C.S. Mott Children’s and Von Voigtlander Women’s Hospital, according to Jim Kosteva, the University’s director of community relations.
Originally, the University collaborated with the city of Ann Arbor to design a facility that would involve an additional parking structure on Wall Street near the University’s Kellogg Eye Center. However, after some resistance from the neighboring Riverside Park Place condominium complex during public meetings, the University decided to reconsider the location.
The group in charge of the task formed an intermodal project that would incorporate parking for UMHS and serve as a depot for commuter rail, Kosteva said. The group chose Fuller Road as the new project location.
The multi-transport station would have had a covered first floor with a bus stop, close to 900 parking spaces and a platform for trains, Kosteva said.
“There are 20,000 people that work within a quarter-mile radius,” Kosteva said. “There probably isn’t a location along any other major rail line that will have a concentration of that many employees. This way you can serve hundreds or thousands of people who might otherwise drive their individual cars into the Medical Center.”