Picture it: another year and another summer vacation in Traverse City. This time though, instead of spending your evening slogging down US-31, you try something new. Just outside of town you stop off at the Turtle Creek Casino, park the car, and check the train schedule – alright, the next train is almost here. This year, instead of waiting in the hustle and bustle of traffic on the road, you smoothly ride into town, passing by all the other traffic, and arrive at the Eighth Street Station – just a few blocks from the waterfront, right next to the TART Trail, there’s the Filling Station microbrewery…
With the support of the Nation Association of REALTORS® and the Traverse Area Association of REALTORS®, the Michigan Land Use Institute (MLUI) has produced a new report examining the feasibility of this very set-up: a tourist train between Traverse City and the Turtle Creek Casino in Williamsburg. The report, titled Getting Back On Track: Uncovering the Potential for Trains in Traverse City, describes how rail travel could boost tourism and development in the area, the upgrades needed to run passenger trains on the existing tracks, and how comparable rail lines across the country work.
Here are just a few key findings from the report:
- The estimated cost to improve the tracks in the 11-mile corridor – less than $2 million – is modest when compared to the $9 million cost to reconstruct just 1.5 miles of US-31.
- While year-round daily commuter rail service might be too expensive for now, a seasonal tourist train could be a low-cost, achievable first step.
- A local Traverse City passenger train could spur interest in reviving the rest of the line, which connects Traverse City to Ann Arbor, in the southern half of the Mitten.
Whether you’re heading home from work downtown, trying to make it to class at NMC, or hoping you did not miss the turn for your hotel back there, there is one experience we all likely share in common: the gridlock on US-31. Imagine a quick, easy, and smooth ride into downtown, or out to the casino in Williamsburg during the busy summer months. Bypassing the congestion along US-31 may seem unavoidable today, but it does not have to always be this way.
In 2010, Traverse City was ranked as the No.1 community most in need of new passenger rail connections by Michigan residents through Michigan By Rail public forums for the State Rail Plan. The Getting Back on Track report moves us one step closer to making these new passenger rail connections a reality.
MLUI released their Getting Back on Track report at on Saturday, July 19 at the Traverse Area District Library, during a Michigan Association of Railroad Passengers business meeting. MLUI will also present the report and its findings at additional community events in the coming months. Join us July 19 at the Traverse Area District Library, and stay tuned for more info about additional presentations.
The full report is available for download here: www.mlui.org/backontrack