Study Mulls Amtrak Return to Iconic Detroit Station

Ford Motor Company and others are reportedly studying whether Amtrak could return to Detroit’s Michigan Central Station.

Bridge Magazine reported that the Detroit/Wayne County Port Authority has commissioned a $30,000 feasibility study and that talks are underway involving Ford, the city and other transportation officials.

Ford purchased the abandoned train station for $90 million in 2018 and has launched a $1 billion project to renovate it.

For several years the MC Station has become an icon for urban blight with its numerous broken windows and vacant space.

Amtrak used the station, built in 1913, until Jan. 5, 1988, when it began operating from a temporary modular station it built next to MC Station.

On May 4, 1994, Amtrak opened a new station in Detroit’s New Center neighborhood that the carrier said would be temporary until a permanent intermodal station was built across the tracks. That facility has yet to be built.

Ford has ambitious plans for the MC Station and its surrounding neighborhood that includes bringing 5,000 jobs there to work on autonomous and electric cars.

It is not clear how much it would cost to restore rail service to MC Station and how that would be funded. Some questions surrounding that matter are expected to be answered in the feasibility study.

Port Authority officials said Ford approached it about conducting the study.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said he couldn’t confirm those discussions but said in a statement that Amtrak is “exploring places it can modernize and expand its services and network.”

This includes a proposed Detroit-Toronto service that might also be extended to western Michigan.

Current Amtrak service in Detroit is three daily Wolverine Service roundtrips between Chicago and Pontiac that also stop in Royal Oak, Dearborn and Ann Arbor.

Discussions have been held in previous years about returning Amtrak service to MC Station.

The former owner of the depot, Manuel “Matty” Moroun, looked into the idea at one point.

The prospect of returning rail service to the station has captured the attention of some historic preservationists and historians.

“It’s a building no one thought could be saved,” said Dan Austin, the founder of HistoricDetroit.org. “It hasn’t seen anything but vandals and scrappers in years. And to tell you that Ford is coming in there and not only going to renovate it and restore it to all its glory, but make it a train station again? It’s hard to believe.”

Austin, who studies Detroit’s architectural history, called MC Station one of the city’s “most iconic abandoned buildings.” It is located in Corktown, one of Detroit’s oldest neighborhoods.

Canadian Pacific has tracks near the station. Michael Frezell, a spokesman for the Michigan Department of Transportation, said his agency, which funds Amtrak’s Wolverine Service, is away of the feasibility study but said it’s too early to know what kind of arrangement could be worked out between Amtrak and CP as well as the costs involved.

Ford has not said whether its renovation plans for MC Station involve removing its existing but unused tracks.

It also has avoided discussing whether it could be used again as a train station.

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