- Associated Press - Friday, May 20, 2016

DETROIT (AP) - The Regional Transit Authority board approved a plan to create a long-stalled commuter rail line that would link downtown Ann Arbor and downtown Detroit along lines used by Amtrak’s passenger rail service.

The 38-mile line has been discussed for more than a decade but lacked funding, The Detroit News reported (https://detne.ws/1rYp4d5 ). The RTA plans to fold the cost of the service into a November property tax request.

The RTA board approved the proposed service Thursday as part of its Michigan Avenue corridor study, which also includes bus rapid transit.

“It’s a significant connector between Ann Arbor and Detroit,” said Paul Hillegonds, the RTA’s board chairman. “One of the criticisms of rail always is it’s much more expensive than bus rapid transit, but in this case, the existing infrastructure is in place.

“It makes sense from a cost-effective standpoint, and I think will be very attractive to riders, and I think a very significant economic development tool for the region.”

Plans call for rail service between the cities eight times a day: three rides during morning and afternoon rush hours, and one in the afternoon and evening. The line would start at the Amtrak Ann Arbor station with stops in Ypsilanti, Wayne, Dearborn and Detroit’s New Center area.

Megan Owens, president of the transit advocacy group Transportation Riders United, said rail is a “quick, reliable way to connect these communities.” She said it also likely would attract riders for major events, such as University of Michigan football games or the Thanksgiving Parade in Detroit.

If the millage passes, RTA officials estimate the route could start around 2022, with annual operating costs of $11 million to $19 million. It would cost around $130 million in capital costs to get the service running and build a maintenance facility, officials said.

The commuter rail line will be formally presented May 31 as part of the authority’s master plan, which also will include bus rapid transit routes on Woodward, Gratiot and Michigan avenues in addition to possible transit options that include an airport shuttle service.

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Information from: The Detroit News, https://detnews.com/


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