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Council approves contract to release $8 million to fund local transit center

By: Terry Oparka | Troy Times | Published September 21, 2011

Plans for the Troy Multi-Modal Transit Facility chugged ahead after the Troy City Council approved the contract with the Michigan Department of Transportation that allows dispersal of just under $8.5 million in federal grant money to fund the project.

The project is on track to be finished by September of 2013.

The council approved the contract in a 6-1 vote at the Sept. 12 meeting. Troy City Councilman Martin Howrylak opposed the measure. He cited concerns over what rate Davis-Bacon wages would be, which are determined by the federal government and must be paid to workers on federally funded projects, lack of “any new rail service” resulting from the project and the $8.4 million cost on a “very small building” (3,000 square foot).

The estimated cost of the project is $8.484 million.

Mark Miller, director of economic and community development, explained that Davis-Bacon wages would not be determined until the project is bid out.

Miller said that MDOT administers the Federal Rail Administration funding, and the contract allows the final design, bidding and construction on the project to move forward.

“It’s a standard MDOT contract,” Miller said.

The project includes a 3,000-square-foot facility, a bridge leading from the facility to the train tracks in Birmingham and improvements to the train platform in the Canadian National Railroad right of way in Birmingham. The estimated maintenance cost for the facility, which will be on a 3.5-acre site at Maple and Coolidge in Troy, on the former site of the Ford Motor Tractor Plant, is estimated to be $30,000 a year, based on other city facilities. Steve Vandette, city engineer, told the council that lease agreements with Amtrak, taxi companies and other vendors would likely offset this cost.

He noted there would be no additional costs for Troy police to patrol the site, and said officers would continue to patrol the area as they do now.

The city of Troy acquired the property for the transit center from Grand Sakwa, developer of the 77-acre mixed-use commercial and residential Midtown development in a consent judgment. The agreement stated that if the property were not used for a transportation center, it would revert back to the developer, and it required that the city fund the center within 10 years from the date of the judgment.

Initial plans included a tunnel leading from the Troy facility to the Birmingham side, which were abandoned when Birmingham pulled out of the project after the City Commission there rejected a counter land offer for more than twice the appraised value — just under $400,000 — of the land in that city, where the tracks are.

The city of Troy had explored switching the current train to tracks on the Troy side, but this proved unfeasible because the FRA required a 20-year commitment from either the city of Troy or Amtrak to maintain the switches, and neither party was willing to do so, Miller said.

In the revised site plan, the platform will be constructed in the CNR right of way on the Birmingham side, where the current tracks are, and there will be no direct access to the new platform from the Birmingham side. There will be access to the bridge from the Troy side by stairs on the outside of the building or an elevator on the inside of the facility. On the Birmingham side, there will be an elevator or stairs leading down from the bridge to the platform.

“Passengers would board on the track being currently used,” Miller said.

However, Miller said that the revised plan would allow Birmingham to access the platform at a later date if that city acquires the property necessary to do so.

The Troy Planning Commission has approved the preliminary site plan and will review the final site plan in coming months. Miller said he sees no problems with the Planning Commission approval, as the final site plans will feature only architectural and other small changes. The FRA approved the environmental assessment of the site Sept. 9, and officials said the city had to approve the contract with MDOT by Sept. 16 or lose the federal funding.

In coming weeks, the city of Troy will bid out for the services of a design consultant and project manager.

Troy City Manager John Szerlag told the council that no permits would be needed from the city of Birmingham to improve the platform adjacent to the tracks since it’s in the CNR right of way.

Vandette said that there is also a $1.3 million stipend for the project from the Federal Transit Administration to be used toward bus transportation, but those funds aren’t needed at this time. The FRA grant, funded under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, is anticipated to fund the entire cost.

Peter Arvant, who serves on the board of directors for the Troy Chamber of Commerce, told the council the chamber strongly supported the transit center and that it would spur continued growth.

“This is an attraction,” Mayor Pro Tem Mary Kerwin said.

Vandette said that currently, 20,000 passengers board the train from the Birmingham tracks each year, which is expected to grow to 52,000 passengers per year by 2027.