Commuter service again studied along Ann Arbor Railroad

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ANN ARBOR, Mich. – A new technical study will begin the next phase of the process aimed at determining the feasibility of commuter rail between Ann Arbor and Howell. Known as the “WALLY” for the counties that it serves, Washtenaw and Livingston, North-South Commuter Rail is being considered as an alternative to ease traffic congestion along U.S. Route 23.

The new phase will follow an earlier feasibility study that RL Banks conducted in 2008. It will be a more in-depth process that will include model-based ridership estimates, more detailed cost estimates, station locations, train storage and maintenance facility locations, and governance and funding feasibility considerations. The study will also include a review of possible alternatives, such as express bus service and high occupancy vehicle lanes on U.S. 23.

The study is being funded by a Transportation and Community System Preservation grant from the Federal Highway Administration and the Federal Transit Administration. The grant requires a 20 percent match, which has already been collected by the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority.

The study will be managed in cooperation with the Michigan Department of Transportation and will include public involvement effort, with plans for general public meetings and focused discussions with local elected officials, businesses, environmental groups, and other interest groups.

The study will be led by Smith Group JJR, and is expected to take 18 months to complete. New conditions now exist, which were not available for the previous study, including recently upgraded track north of Ann Arbor, availability of a fleet of 23 refurbished commuter cars in-state, support from the “Friends of WALLY” community group, and a change of railroad ownership in the city of Ann Arbor.

The Ann Arbor Railroad, now owned by Watco, has expressed a willingness to consider passenger service on its line through the city.

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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