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Conference Highlights Rail’s Potential in MichiganPrint

Thriving Communities | August 29, 2013 | By James Bruckbauer

Earlier this week, MLUI joined transportation experts, engineers, train advocates, rail companies and decision makers in Lansing at the Michigan Rail Conference.

Conference organizers and state leaders who spoke, including Sen. Tom Casperson and Rep. Wayne Schmidt, said Michigan is well positioned to have one of the best freight and passenger rail systems in the entire nation, and that rail will play a major role in Michigan's economic recovery.

Jim Byrum, president of the Michigan Agribusiness Association, said improving the tracks and expanding the freight rail connection to northwest Lower Michigan should be a high priority for the state. He said without the proper infrastructure, the booming agriculture economy will not grow to its full potential.

The Michigan Department of Transportation will soon release the preliminary findings of its Northern Michigan Freight Rail Feasibility study. This study is an important part to expanding Michigan’s rail network.

Amtrak’s Tom Carper, who gave the keynote presentation, said the demand for passenger rail is higher today than it’s even been. He said that’s due, in part, to the rising interest from young people who are more interested in getting around by transit and trains than cars.

Other topics included the M-1 streetcar in Detroit, the Detroit to Ann Arbor commuter rail line, and federal transportation policy.

James Bruckbauer is the Michigan Land Use Institute’s transportation policy specialist. Follow him on Twitter at @jimbruckb. Reach him at james@mlui.org.