MLUI to release rail report July 19

July 2, 2014 | |

MLUI will release a report on July 19 that outlines the potential for rail travel along an 11-mile stretch of track between Traverse City and Acme/Williamsburg.

The Michigan Land Use Institute, with generous support from the National Association of Realtors and other sponsors, will release the report, “Getting Back on Track: Uncovering the Potential for Trains in Traverse City,” on July 19 at the historic train depot in Traverse City.

“Getting Back on Track” will describe what it would take to have some type of train running on the 11-mile stretch of tracks between Traverse City and the Acme/Williamsburg area.

In anticipation of the release, here are a couple findings to get you thinking about Traverse City trains:

It will cost about roughly $1.7 million to get the 11-mile stretch of tracks in good enough shape to handle passenger trains. Obviously, that’s a lot of money—but also consider that it will cost about $9 million to reconstruct just a 1.5-mile stretch of road on U.S.-31 in the same area.

Operating a train costs real dollars, too, but varies considerably depending on the type of train. It could cost millions every year for a full-fledged, year-round, daily commuter train, to as little as $100,000 a year for a summer weekend, tourist-focused shuttle train.

Both ends of the line could benefit from a train. On the east end, the Whitewater Township Master Plan calls for Williamsburg to become a “village center,” and a train station in the small community could spur its development as a “pedestrian-oriented village.” At the other end, Traverse City’s Eighth Street area is emerging as a new center for downtown development. A new affordable housing project is already under way, and the Traverse City Corridors Master Plan finds significant potential for new, pedestrian-friendly, “mixed use” development in that area, as well.

Year-round, daily commuter trains come at a price. Even with lower-than-average start-up costs for year-round commuter trains, the Music City Star in Nashville, for example, still has a fairly large budget. Officials spent roughly $40 million in startup costs to rehabilitate the tracks, build stations, and purchase refurbished passenger cars, and they spend about $4.5 million a year on operations.

Operators of streetcars in Kenosha, Wisconsin, however, spent around $5 million to get their cars up and running and spend about $135,000 a year on operations. The cars are such a big boost to tourism, growth, and the local economy that local leaders are planning a two-mile expansion that connects to 80 percent of the downtown’s businesses.

Watch for the complete report on July 19.

About the Author

James Bruckbauer is the Michigan Land Use Institute’s transportation policy specialist. Follow him on Twitter at @jimbruckb. Reach him at [email protected].

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