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.
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."