Copyright 2022 SPARK

Community meetings seeking feedback were just the most recent step toward saying "all aboard" to building a commuter rail line from Ann Arbor to Howell.

Public input was gathered earlier this week and last week for the North-South Commuter Rail (WALLY), a proposed 27-mile long commuter rail service that would connect Ann Arbor and Howell and have intermediate stops along the way. The meetings are one piece of the feasibility study puzzle, which will determine whether or not the rail is a viable option for the community.

"It's intended to answer in detail the question: 'Can the service happen or not?'" says Michael Benham, Strategic Planner at the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority.

Benham explains that the study will encompass three general categories: service, which includes the bricks and mortar of the stations and the rails under the trains; government, which will determine whether one entity or an authority will run the service; and funding, where taxpayers weigh in on whether or not the service will be worth the backing necessary. The project is still early in the process, so there's still many questions to be answered, from ridership estimates to operating costs to necessary track upgrades.

Benham says feedback has been mixed, as some don’t believe the rail would be a good use of public funds, but others see it as helping them get to where they want to go without having to drive. 

?"People are getting their licenses later, and when they do they drive less," he says. "Especially younger people, they want to be able to get around without a car."

Among the issues being evaluated are how the line would affect property values, economic development and job creation in the region. The federally-funded study is expected to take about 15 months; if the line is found to be feasible, the study will help prepare it for federal funding.

Residents are also invited to weigh in online at www.nsrailstudy.com.

Source: Michael Benham, strategic planner for the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority
Writer: Kristin Lukowski

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