Ann Arbor city officials told a town hall meeting last night that plans for a transit center are quickly gaining ground.

Slated to open in 2012, the Fuller Intermodal Transit Center will include a four-level parking lot with over 900 spaces, according to Eli Cooper, the City of Ann Arbor’s transportation manager. At the meeting last night, Cooper said the center, which will be located on Fuller Road, just north of the University Hospital, will also feature a busing transit space, interior bus waiting room and bicycle storage area for commuters.

The University will shoulder around 78 percent — or $45 million — of the projected $60 million total cost, a Nov. 8 Michigan Daily article reported. In exchange for the funding, the University will receive 78 percent of the total number of parking spots, which it will reserve for hospital parking.

Cooper said the center is in the first phase of a long-term vision that some regard as the future of transportation in Ann Arbor. The plan currently involves establishing east-to-west and north-to-south commuter trains to accommodate the roughly 75,000 people who make the daily commute to the city from areas like Ypsilanti, Detroit and Dearborn.

At yesterday’s meeting, Cooper said the Fuller station will serve as “a major transit corridor” for the city. He added that the center will also be geared toward commuters who rely on bicycles and will feature lockers and showers.

“It’s a real opportunity for the bicycling community of Ann Arbor,” Cooper said.

Both the Ann Arbor City Council and the Ann Arbor Planning Commission must approve the design plan before construction can begin, City of Ann Arbor Project Manager Dave Dykman said at the meeting.

Dykman estimated that construction will begin next winter and that “some activity on the site” may begin as early as this spring. He said the initial work would include relocating both a sanitary sewer and electrical transmission line that currently traverse the site.

“Construction is ongoing and underway,” Dykman said.

Cooper said the construction of rail lines, which he calls “phase two” of the project is meant to reduce the total number of cars entering and leaving the city by providing an alternative mode of transportation.

Cooper said 98 percent of Ann Arbor’s commuting employees currently use “single-occupancy vehicles.” A rail service, he said, would change that.

“Folks, if given the choice, will use these convenient, reliable forms of transportation” instead of driving, Cooper said.

Jim Kosteva, the University’s director of community relations emphasized at the meeting that a rail service could substantially reduce Ann Arbor’s carbon footprint.

Cooper echoed Kosteva’s sentiment, saying that a transit station “within walking distance” of either the University’s central campus or downtown Ann Arbor would not only appeal to commuters but would also be environmentally friendly.

The officials at the meeting pointed out that though the development of a railway system would be ideal in terms of its accessibility and environmental impact, the long-term plans will most likely be postponed until the state’s current economic situation improves.

Cooper said he doesn’t see phase two of the project beginning for “three to five years, at best.”

– Rachel Brusstar contributed to this report.

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