As we roll into another Memorial Day Weekend, Bridge Magazine shares that Northern Michigan is one step closer to adding another means of travel – passenger rail:
Federal officials in recent years have made billions of dollars in grant money available for passenger rail, and Michigan has received nearly $85 million from 2018 to 2022.
A northern Michigan passenger rail group in 2022 also received $2.3 million in state and federal funding to research a new route connecting metro Detroit to northern Michigan cities including Traverse City and Petoskey, while the state is pursuing money to extend rails to Canada.
Some Michigan Democrats, now in the legislative majority, also want to chip in on passenger rail improvements. The state Senate budget proposal included $100 million for grants to “encourage high-speed rail development” by providing matching funds that local governments need to qualify for federal money.
“I’d like to see us modernize our mass transit the way a lot of other states have,” said Sen. Veronica Klinefelt, an Eastpointe Democrat who chairs the transportation budget subcommittee.
The United States has long been eclipsed by other countries when it comes to rail investment. Amtrak, the national passenger railroad company, historically hasn’t been profitable, although the company reported a big boost in ridership in the 2022 fiscal year.
Plans and studies don’t always result in tracks on the ground, as passenger trains are expensive and federal grant programs providing funding are competitive. Michigan has seen plans come and go for decades, without much progress. But officials are optimistic that Michigan, which had 1,776 railroad depots in 1905, is on the verge of a rail revival.
“There’s more excitement in the rail industry than there probably has been in a long time to actually look at the future and see what improvements can be done to make our operations more efficient, or to grow,” Peter Anastor, the Michigan Department of Transportation’s Office of Rail administrator, told Bridge Michigan.
Lots more in Bridge. Safe travels everyone!