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Michigan officials compete for high-speed rail funds

(The following story by Melanie D. Scott appeared on the Detroit Free Press website on August 2, 2009.)

DETROIT, Mich. — Local and state officials are vying for a share of $8 billion in federal stimulus funds to help fund the Chicago-Detroit/Pontiac High Speed Rail Corridor.

Michigan Department of Transportation officials plan to request about $130 million, which would pay for replacing five stations, including the one in Birmingham with the Troy/Birmingham Transit Center.

The Troy/Birmingham Transit Center, one of 13 stops along the corridor, plans to request $12 million.

The Federal Recovery Funds are earmarked for high-speed rail projects nationwide. Final applications are due Aug. 24.

"The two cities are great partners, and it's neat what they are trying to do," said Therese Cody, rail analyst for MDOT.

In addition to Troy, Birmingham, Detroit and Pontiac, other cities located along the high-speed rail corridor include Dearborn, Royal Oak, Ann Arbor, Jackson, Albion, Battle Creek, Kalamazoo, Dowagiac, Niles and New Buffalo.

The proposed Troy/Birmingham Transit Center would be located at Coolidge and Maple. It would provide Amtrak, SMART bus, taxi and airport shuttle service.

Ridership on SMART bus routes in Birmingham increased by 14.67% between June 2007 and June 2008. Ridership increased by 15.67% in Troy during the same period.

In July, the U.S. House Appropriations Committee recommended to the full House of Representatives that it approve $1.9 million in funding to advance the construction of the transit center.

The $1.9 million is in addition to the $12 million officials are seeking.

"If we are awarded the $1.9 million, the project will be funded by 40%," said Jana Ecker, Birmingham Planning Director.

Farmington Hills-based developer Grand Sakwa Properties Inc. donated the land for the transit center nearly nine years ago with the stipulation that the land was developed into a transit center by 2010. The project has to be fully funded by June.

Monday, August 3, 2009

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