Andrew Vriesman, a 22-year-old senior at Central Michigan University, is excited about passenger rail that will one day connect Mt. Pleasant with Ann Arbor to the southeast and with Traverse City and Petoskey to the northwest. The route will travel through thriving downtowns that include growing businesses, tech sectors, and colleges that are collectively home to 90,000 students.
Ten years ago, if you showed up at Michigan’s top transportation agency and asked for someone in the passenger rail department, you’d be greeted with a strange look, and probably hear something like, “We don’t do that here. Try Amtrak.” But things have changed. These days, not only does MDOT have staff working on passenger rail, they have a whole office dedicated to improving train service. In fact, freight and passenger trains are one of the state’s top priorities.
MLUI’s latest report describes how rail travel could boost tourism and development in the area; the upgrades needed to run passenger trains along the tracks; and how comparable towns around the country restored old train lines.