Ann Arbor Won’t Release Station Site Report

The Ann Arbor, Michigan, city council narrowly defeated a motion to release more information about the city’s efforts to create a new Amtrak station.

The Ann Arbor News had filed a freedom of information request for copies of email messages between the city and the Federal Railroad Administration and the Michigan Department of Transportation pertaining to the project.

Amtrak 4Although copies of the emails were released to the newspaper, they were heavily redacted.

A motion to release copies of the emails without the redactions was defeated in a 6-5 vote.

The council also rejected 6-5 a motion that an alternative analysis report be released.

City officials have said they are evaluating station sites on Depot Street and Fuller Road.

Council members voting against release said the city’s need to engage in frank communications outweighs the public interest in disclosure.

Ann Arbor city officials have said they won’t release the alternatives analysis report until a final draft is approved for release by the FRA.

Council members who voted to keep the report secret acknowledged that they don’t know all of what is in the email messages or the draft report.

Mayor Christopher Taylor said having the information subject to public review and input when it has yet to be approved by the FRA would be counterproductive.

Taylor said the city hasn’t decided on a station site because it has not heard conclusively from MDOT and the FRA where those agencies believe the depot should be situated.

“We are in the middle of a long and unpleasant process that no one is satisfied with. No one believes that this has gone well to this point,” he said.

“I think people at the table here are frustrated. People on the staff are frustrated, of course. But that’s where we are. We are not running the show.”

Ann Arbor officials have long favored building the station on city park land along Fuller Raod, but the FRA has favored redeveloping the former Michigan Central station, which is now a restaurant.

The current Amtrak station on Depot Street could also be redeveloped.

The Ann Arbor News said that in response to its FOI request, it received more than 400 pages of emails sent to and from Eli Cooper, the city’s transportation program manager, dating to August 2014.

Redacted from the emails provided to the newspaper were comments made by the FRA on the station site draft report.

Mayor Taylor said once the station analysis report is released there will be ample opportunity for public review and comment.

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