PPNA Happenings

Happenings, history and news of the Prospect Park Neighborhood and Ypsilanti

Train or No Train?

Posted by ppna on January 3, 2008

I am so confused. I know I read about a proposed passenger rail line between Ypsilanti and Kalamazoo or in my way of thinking The Corner Brewery to Bells Brewery but now, in my time of need, I can’t find the articles to reference. I guess you’ll just have to believe me that such a plan existed.

My guess is that the plan came from the Watco and Norfolk Southern Corporations. These two companies had planned on creating a third company, Michigan Central LLC, that they would then buy the rail lines from Ypsilanti to Kalamazoo that are presently owned by Norfolk Southern. Watco would be majority stockholder at 67percent and NS would receive 33percent of the company. The plan was controversial because it was thought that Watco, who only operates freight rails, wouldn’t invest or understand the needs and maintenance of a rail-line that needs to meet Amtrak standards. The worst case scenario brought to the governments attention by the MARP — Michigan Association of Railroad Passengers was that the tracks would become unusable by Amtrak and passenger train service between Detroit and Chicago would be disrupted. Apparently the federal government thought that the proposal was too dangerous and denied the creation of the new Michigan Central.

I’m not sure how making a company that doesn’t want the line and is losing money on the line keep the line makes any sense but we are talking about the Feds. So with the end of the Michigan Central I guess so goes the plan for a railroad stop in Ypsilanti that will take us to Kalamazoo multiple times daily, at least for now. We can hope with the decline in freight business, NS says the lines are at 10% of traffic capacity, that it will force them to come up with an attractive passenger service.

Below is a blurb about the decision but if you want to find out more just google Watco and Norfolk Southern there are more people covering news about trains than you’d ever believe.

“The impact of a $23 million deal in which Norfolk Southern Corp. proposed to sell a majority interest in most of its Michigan rail lines, including the line Amtrak uses between Kalamazoo and Ypsilanti, to Kansas-based short-line operator Watco Cos. had leaders of communities across southern Michigan worried about whether the passenger-rail service would suffer or die if the rails were not property maintained. On Dec. 10, however, the federal Surface Transportation Board halted the deal, saying that labor and ownership issues raised in the deal were a problem. Norfolk Southern officials say they are still seeking a buyer for the lines, which the company says are no longer profitable in Michigan’s slumping economy.”

There is a little bit of Good News on the railroad front however. It looks like the plan for train service from Ann Arbor to Detroit (with 12 stops along the way including Ypsilanti) is still in the works. One of the stops will be at the airport and the suggested cost would be $6.00 between A2 and Detroit or $1.50 per stop you pass. I’ll write more on that later.

During my research on this I found some interesting sites.

Trains for America
MARP — Michigan Association of Railroad Passengers — I didn’t know we had people fighting for us.

and an article about how a guy stealing Railroad Ties from a Watco Train-yard was able to collect $3.5 million because he was hit by a train. I can’t believe our legal system.


2 Responses to “Train or No Train?”

  1. Murph said

    There has not been any recent talk of an Ypsilanti to Kalamazoo passenger service, other than the existing Amtrak service. The Watco/Michigan Central deal you mention was a simple transfer of ownership of the tracks from one freight company to another (which would be largely the same freight company, but, whatever). Various communities in the area were concerned that the deal would make it /harder/ to establish new passenger service on any part of the Ypsi/Kzoo corridor.

    The only new passenger rail services under serious discussion in the area in recent history are the Lansing-Detroit line talked about in the mid-90s, when GM moved, the A2-Detroit planning process that is the result of that discussion (based on federal funding regulations that require implementation a piece at a time), and the WALLY plan for running north from Ann Arbor to Brighton/Howell.

  2. ppna said

    I just want to point out that there is a lot of talk about the Ann Arbor to Detroit rail route with stops at Ypsilanti, Metro-Airport and Dearborn. This project is being looked at by the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments.

    Murph is correct that the Michigan Central LLC deal was a transfer of track ownership and it was my speculation (having seen talk somewhere) that the rail lines need to be used more for them to become profitable. As freight service disappears the only way to increase track use would be passenger service.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: