Why Spend Money on a New Ann Arbor Amtrak Station?

DSCN3132Ann Arbor Amtrak Passenger Rail Station, 325 Depot Street

In October 2012, Ann Arbor City Council approved matching funds to support an Environmental Assessment (EA) for a proposed Ann Arbor Station. One year later, in October 2013, a contract was approved with URS Corporation to manage the environmental assessment along with city staff. Both city and federal funds are being used to cover the costs of the project. The project must meet National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requirements, specifically because one site under consideration is public park land. The project was anticipated to be completed in 12 months.

A stated goal of the EA was to include robust public involvement. Meetings and a visit to three potential sites were held, in March and June of 2014, and May 2015. The intent of the meetings was to inform the public and representatives of identified groups of interested citizens of the process and to obtain public input.

The mid-May 2015 meetings with the public included presentation of a Statement of the Purpose and Need for a new station. The Purpose and Need Statement was labeled “Final”, and the project team did not accept comments for modification of the document. The Statement was forwarded to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) for review. As of November 2015, no additional information on the EA has been provided to the public by either the FRA or the City of Ann Arbor.

In August 2015, MLive reported that the city had submitted a draft EA report for the Ann Arbor Station Environmental Assessment to Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) and possibly to the FRA. No draft EA report has been made available to the public, as recently as June 5, 2017. At the most recent series of identical public meetings in September 2016, two reports were released:

  1. Alternatives Analysis Phase I Report (dated October 14, 2014), and
  2. Alternatives Analysis Phase II​​ Report (dated August 29, 2016)

Project staff did not explain why the Alternatives Analysis Phase I Report was not presented and discussed with the public in May 2015. The information contained would have been useful to the discussions that were held with the public in May 2015.

On June 5, 2017, Ann Arbor Council, in a vote of 8/3, approved a resolution for an additional $137,026 to be added to the contract with URA/AECOM consultants, bringing the total reimbursement for Environmental Assessment management process to $1,088,700. The reason given for the additional payment to the consultants was that the FRA is requiring Preliminary Engineering and Design for four alternative options for the station location. City staff stated that they are required by the FRA to not release information on the potential location choice until the analysis is completed. Details on the options under consideration are being withheld from members of the community.

Members of Protect A2 Parks disagree with the decision to withhold information on the project.

As an additional point of information, the 325 Depot Street Amtrak station, the property on which it is located, and the parking space located on the north side of the railroad tracks are all owned and managed by Amtrak. At no time has the City of Ann Arbor owned the Amtrak building or the property on which it is located. Financial details of ownership and ongoing maintenance and management are unexplained, as of June 6, 2017.

Click here to link to the City of Ann Arbor web site on the Ann Arbor Station Environmental Assessment.

 

Updated: 6/6/2017