The future of a proposed Amtrak stop in Ypsilanti, Michigan, is in doubt after a ballot measure to fund a Detroit-Ann Arbor commuter train went down to defeat on Nov. 8.
The city council had about a month earlier halted planning work to establish a station to serve Amtrak’s Chicago-Detroit (Pontiac) Wolverine Service trains and now some city officials are questioning the benefit of proceeding with the idea.
The city had agreed to commit up to $2.5 million from the city’s general fund and savings to pay for establishing the Amtrak stop.
Plans had called for construction of a 500-foot concrete platform just north of the Cross Street crossing near a former Michigan Central freight house.
At the time that the station planning began, city officials expected the station to serve Amtrak and the commuter trains. Some of the funding was expected to come from grants.
Council Member Brian Robb said he doubted that a station serving 9,000 annual Amtrak riders is worth the cost.
“Now we have to re-evaluate the timeline,” Robb said. “Commuter rail is the holy grail of public transportation for us and we have to see where a platform fits in with that.”
Council Member Pete Murdock agreed, noting that the soonest that the commuter rail proposal could be put before voters again was in 2018.
However, Mayor Amanda Edmonds said the commuter rail tax was never a determining factor in whether the stop would be built.
“It was an extra bonus,” she said. “We’re going to keep working as we were doing to leverage funds from partners, federal agencies, and keep pushing forward on gathering the money, and our timeline will follow from there.”
Although Beth Ernat, Ypsilanti’s economic development director, said commuter service would provide a much larger economic impact than just Amtrak, the decision on whether to continue working to develop the station belongs with the council.
“It’s council’s decision, and we will evaluate all of our options in the coming weeks,” she said.
Council Member Dan Vogt said he is concerned that there is no evidence that investing in an Amtrak stop would be worth the money, noting that the city has “been acting on faith.”