Ann Arbor To Study New Station Sites

Ann Arbor is still seeking a plan and location for a new train station after a previous pact with the University of Michigan expired.

The City of Ann Arbor has hired URS Corp at a cost of $827, 875 to undertake an environmental review that will include public hearings, site selection and conceptual design for a new depot along the Wolverine Service route in the city.

Previously, the city reached a memorandum of understanding with UM to create a station at Fuller Road.

Although work on that project was halted two years ago, some city council members still held out hope that the Fullerton Road site might be revived.

It wasn’t and the council voted this week to officially end the UM pact.

“It’s just to basically give some official process to the termination,” said council member Stephen Kunselman.

That doesn’t mean a new train station on Fuller Road is out of the question. It just means the old agreement is no longer valid, the Ann Arbor News reported.

Ann Arbor Mayor John Hieftje, who had actively supported the Fuller Road Station project, said he didn’t have any problems with ending the memorandum of understanding with UM.

“It’s a little bit like digging up someone who died a few years ago and reburying them, but again, it’s not anything I’m opposed to,” he said, drawing laughs from council members who characterized it as “checking for a pulse” one last time.

The city and university announced plans in 2009 to collaborate on development of a intermodal transportation station on the site of an existing parking lot along Fuller Road, directly in front of the UM medical center.

The memorandum of understanding was a conceptual agreement for working together on the project, which would have included in its first phase a shared parking garage, a bus stop with passenger waiting areas, and bicycle parking and lockers. Future phases could have included additional parking, rail amenities, a bus terminal and skywalk connections to the hospital.

The city and university pursued the goals of the memorandum through February 2012, when both parties announced that the Fuller Road Station project no longer would be pursued after funding assumptions had changed.

The university has since built a 725-space, six-story parking garage on Wall Street.

Ann Arbor will explore multiple options for building a train station in the city.

The city might develop the station on Depot Street or not move forward at all.

Eli Cooper, the city’s transportation program manager, said he anticipates the project getting underway this month with an initial meeting planned for Friday between city staff and the URS Corp. consulting team.

“We will review and establish a detailed schedule at that meeting,” he said. “Generally, and according to the URS proposal for this project, the public meetings are planned at appropriate times when information is available to share.”

A little less than $165,000 of the consultant’s fee is coming from city funds that were already budgeted, with the rest covered by a federal rail grant.

Cooper said public meeting dates haven’t been determined, but there’s expected to be contact with stakeholder groups within a month or two, and then the first public meeting likely will be held soon thereafter.

Final design of a new Amtrak station is identified as a $2.6 million expense in 2015-16 in the city’s capital improvement plan. Construction of the station is shown as a separate $44.5 million line item that same year.

The mayor has said he expects most of the funding to come from the federal government with other local partners potentially contributing funds. Ann Arbor residents will vote on the project before any construction gets underway.

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