By Eric Sarb
Michigan Environmental Council Summer Intern
July 20, 2010
Last Thursday’s Battle Creek forum was filled with lively discussion among local elected officials, organization leaders, and concerned citizens alike. New issues and opportunities were raised, and diverse viewpoints were heard from all.
Opening statements were made by Battle Creek Mayor Susan Baldwin, Calhoun County Commissioner Jim Haadsma, City Council Commissioners Ryan Hersha and Bill Morris, and Jill Slaught from Congressman Schauer’s office – all voicing the importance of a new statewide rail plan. The forum participants were then grouped into teams where they launched into the rail mapping exercise.
Some of the most important reasons for the need for expanded regional rail in Michigan discussed were:
- Increased economic activity from tourism, easy travel for those without a car
- To make possible the daily commute for Michiganders who must take jobs in regions far from their homes
- To connect with the Canadian rail system
Opportunities to aid the development of a rail system brought to the table were:
- The creation of regional partnerships in areas of Michigan that would benefit greatly from a rail system
- TIFA dollars collected from areas along the rail lines
- Traverse City region funding a rail line to connect to lower Michigan
Forum participants left the meeting encouraged as City Council Commissioner Ryan Hersha stated in the closing remarks that everyone must contact their elected officials regarding passenger rail because – in his experience as an elected official – “every comment does make a difference.” The forum discussion continued into the hallway even after adjournment with forum goers leaving enthused about the future of passenger rail in Michigan.
After making a stop in Battle Creek, the Michigan By Rail forum will head North to Traverse City (by train from Cadillac) on Thursday, July 22 to receive input from the largest urban center in Northern Michigan.