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City Council to Study Troy Transit Center Project

A call for opposing viewpoints to the construction of an $8.4 million transit center to be built primarily with federal funding could stop the project in its tracks nearly a decade after its inception.

An $8.4 million transit center scheduled to be built in less than two years may be the key needed to kick start Troy's financial engine, but opponents of the project fear the city is headed down the wrong track.

"It would be multi-modal," Mark Miller said during a sit-down meeting late last month with Troy Patch, John Szerlag and Community Affairs Director Cindy Stewart. "Initially, we know we are going to have an Amtrak station, which is part of the Detroit-to-Chicago corridor, high-speed rail link."

Miller said the Troy Multi-Modal Transit Facility also will serve as a SMART Bus hub and could possibly include car rental services, bicycle rentals and the ability to connect light-rail commuter trains being considered by nearby communities.

The vision for the facility -- which would be located where Doyle Drive meets the train tracks, just southwest of East Maple and Coolidge at the Birmingham-Troy border -- is that it would serve as a transportation hub for the city and the broader area.

"Currently, its just a platform and stairs," he said. "There's not even a cover."

Driving that train

While the design stages of the facility aren't yet complete, the city has already approved a contract with the Michigan Department of Transportation that provides up to $8,485,212 in federal transportation funds to complete engineering and construction phases. The city estimated the cost of the facility to be $8,484,686.

Under the contract, which was approved by the City Council on Sept. 12, the city is responsible for any design or construction costs that exceed the approved funding limit. The city will also be responsible for the maintenance and operation costs of the facility, which are estimated to be about $30,000 annually.

Council voted 6-1 to approve the contract with Councilman Martin Howrylak dissenting.

Miller said the city is negotiating a lease agreement with Amtrak that would provide revenue to the city to operate at the station. Additional vendors will be explored.

"We are going to bring in some revenue, but I can't tell you if it's going to cover the whole operation," Miller said.

"Essentially, it's a no cost transit center to the city," Szerlag said. "That's what we shot for."

The 2.7-acre parcel of land where the facility is planned was acquired about 10 years ago from area developer Grand Sakwa with the condition that it be funded for a transit center within 10 years.

Trouble ahead, trouble behind

Initial plans included a larger facility to be funded and shared by Troy and the city of Birmingham. However, city administrators said Birmingham wasn't able to secure the property necessary for the project and backed out of the plans.

The project, while scaled back slightly, includes rail access on the Birmingham side of the Amtrak tracks, but all pedestrian traffic will enter from the Troy side of the building.

Although funding for the facility has been secured through federal money, some in the community believe the project should be derailed. At least two members of Troy's governing body on Monday expressed a desire to hear opposing views about the transit facility plans.

All aboard?

Troy Mayor Janice Daniels, who was sworn into office Monday evening, said during the meeting that she would like to hear an opposing viewpoint and information as the council gets up to speed on where the city is at in the design and construction phases.

Councilmember Dave Henderson concurred with Daniels about hearing from other sources outside the city's administration.

"We all have our opinion on whether it should (be built) or not," Henderson said of the transit center project, "but without both sides we can't make an informed decision."

"Personally, I think it's a waste of money, but am I an authority on that? No."

City Council members on Monday night will receive an update on the transit center and where it is at in the design process. The city's administration will provide the information during a study session at City Hall following Monday's City Council meeting.

Differing notions on necessity

Troy resident Dale Murrish, who spoke at Monday's meeting about his opposition to the transit center, said he doesn't think a new transit center is needed. Further, the taxpayers shouldn't pay for a transit center, regardless if the money comes from local or federal dollars.

Still others believe the center would be a boon to the city's economic future and ability to retain and attract businesses.

"I believe this is the type of asset that is really a solution when you look at the economic crisis we are in," said Michele Hodges, president of the Troy Regional Chamber of Commerce.

"I concur that we need to minimize tax dollar spending... but you can combat that by increasing property values. Our data shows that this could increase property values in that area by as much as 200 percent."

Barbara Harrell November 19, 2011 at 06:15 PM
I tried to get a couple members of the previous council to access resources other than the "big-government-is-good", politically-correct, and U.N.-supported stuff back when I was part of the "Vision 20/20" Task Force a few years ago. While they paid a "Futurist" thousands of dollars for this, they ignored my (free) advice to access one of the most well-respected think-tanks in America....right here in Michigan....the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. But no - they couldn't do that because their information wouldn't elicit the desired response of more and bigger government. Same thing they did with their 'informational brochure" to try to cram down the Library tax hike (AND the minor league stadium...AND a conference center...) down our throats. I htink the recent elections went the way they did mainly because many of us out here are sick and tired of being played and disrespected. And with this new prevailing worldview in the majority at City Hall, I am hopefull things will change and we'll get the WHOLE story - not only what a few liberals there want us to hear to get the response they want from us.
John Raymor November 19, 2011 at 07:10 PM
I question the need but more importantly why should a city budget support or potentially find itself with an open ended commitment to subsidize?
john cribari November 20, 2011 at 02:25 AM
A transit center is not a necessity, we have many other pressing financial issues at this time. Later after we dig out of the continuing recession, it can be considered.
Michael O'Shaughnessey November 20, 2011 at 04:45 AM
Currently there is only a one rail when will the next set pf tracks be built for high speed rail. If there is a high speed rail to Chicago the added traffic might help business close to the terminal.
Audre Zembrzuski November 21, 2011 at 01:55 AM
Barbara, good reply and I remember that task force and what ended up with that. Nothing. All they want to do is keep hiring consulants for this and for that and that costs money. We have a staff why don't they use them, but most of all why don't they listen to the public when they say no, we don't need this.
Terry Roberts November 21, 2011 at 12:57 PM
The previous council (Louise & Co.) just wanted to spend money. We need our roads widened and repaired. We need our sanitary and storm drainage systems increased in size. During heavy rains the toilets don't flush well. More $250,000.00 vacuum trucks with two city employees is NOT the answer to this problem. We do not need a transit center as Mr. Brooks Patterson and Mr. Dave Bing are going to build a high speed rail system down Woodward.
Audre Zembrzuski November 21, 2011 at 05:02 PM
Terry, good answer and I agree with you all the way. If they wanted a transit, they could have left the streetcars, I enjoyed riding them better than I did transits in the other states I have been in.
Kevin Elliott November 21, 2011 at 06:21 PM
Ok, just to clarify. High-speed rail is what is there. The link from Chicago to Detroit, with the stop on the Birmingham side -- that's Amtrak. That's high-speed rail (not high speed compared to bullet trains, but it's considered high-speed rail.) The train they are proposing to go down Woodward is commuter rail. It's smaller track and connects local communities, not interstate. Also, just to clarify, this isn't local tax dollars. These are federal tax dollars, which are paid for, in much part, by gas taxes. Basically, for every dollar of tax Michigan puts into the transportation pot, it gets back somewhere close to 90 cents. So we are a donor state. Others get more than $1 for each one they put in (receiver states). The formula is part of the federal Transportation Equity Act (TEA or SAFETEA or whatever they are calling it this year). It's based on population and the number of miles of road. So places like, say Kansas, has low population and many miles of road, gets more than a buck back for each they put into the fund. The point is, the money to design and construct the transit center that is being funneled through MDOT isn't available for roads, storm drains or anything else. Basically, its transportation funds that went to the federal rail administration that went to MDOT. The city can use them for this project, or they can not have them. There's not other options, that I'm aware.
Dale Murrish November 24, 2011 at 05:38 PM
Thanks, Kevin. That sheds light on the subject for us. Does the council know this?
Audre Zembrzuski November 24, 2011 at 07:33 PM
Kevin, and where do you think the Federal Gov. gets the money from ff it isn't for the taxpayers buying gas, using other transportation to put this tax money into the Fed. Gov. In the long run. The Taxpayers put all the money into Fed Gov, so we pay for all we get out of the Goverment.
Sharon MacDonell November 27, 2011 at 04:50 PM
It took several city councils nearly a dozen years to make this happen. It is federal money that will benefit another city somewhere else if we don't use it. This is a win-win. Why turn it down? http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/26/opinion/the-death-of-the-fringe-suburb.html
Sharon MacDonell November 27, 2011 at 04:51 PM
John, this is not our city's money. This is money we have paid to the federal government that we finally have the opportunity to bring home. I understand that for years some groups claimed this was city money, but that was never true.
Sharon MacDonell November 27, 2011 at 04:53 PM
Audre, since we pay taxes to the federal government, wouldn't it be nice if we could benefit? Why do you want the taxes you and I have paid to go toward improvements for some other town? It just doesn't make sense to turn down millions of dollars that so many have worked so hard for.
Audre Zembrzuski November 28, 2011 at 12:39 AM
I would rather see them fix the bad roads we have or repair pipes under ground which is more important than a Transit to bring a few people to Troy or out of Troy. Put it to a vote of the people and stop talking about it. If they were going to do this it should have been done years ago, not at this time. Money to operate it will not be there and don't tell me it will pay for itself.
Abbey November 28, 2011 at 02:43 AM
So please don't share the reality and the facts with you because you don't want to hear what you don't want to hear? Audre, the money can only be spent on transit. It's not an either/or thing. If we don't use it in Troy, someone else will get to use it in their city. It was a done deal until this new mayor decided she didn't like it. And people like you who don't understand the details and keep mucking up the conversation don't help.
Ron Dwyer November 28, 2011 at 07:48 PM
A transit center is not needed especially when there is a train stop just to the south of us in Royal Oak that is never at capacity. Why do we want to compete with a stop that is just to the south of us that isn't being fully utilized by residents of the area? Remember just because it's federal money, it is still our money! We need to cut the wasteful spending. Birmingham woke up and now its time that Troy did as well.
kglamers@yahoo.com December 18, 2011 at 08:03 PM
Mr. Elliott, the bottom line is that these days the federal government has no money. On principle we ought to say no to the transit center because it will be paid for with borrowed funds. As a donor state we should be seeking our contributions to use them to fix the roads and bridges in our state, not build more infrastructure. Above all, why has no private venture capitalist come forward, seeing that here's an opportunity to make money? I think the answer is obvious: the transit center is not an investment likely to pay dividends but require continued investment. The taxpayers in western Kansas should not be expected to foot the bill along with those of us here who will never use the facility. Were there a real demand to be seen in the near future for this facility, it might be worth doing; but there is no realistic projection for such demand. Amtrak doesn't see fit to invest in the center. Then again, Amtrak is on life support and has no investment capital.

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