Every couple of years someone floats the idea of establishing train service in the Grand Traverse area. It never lasts long.
This time, the Michigan Land Use Institute is urging local governments to consider upgrading existing rail between the Turtle Creek Casino and Traverse City and creating a tourist-season passenger line.
The study estimates the cost of upgrading 11 miles of track at about $1.7 million (nearly $150,000 a mile) and operational costs up to $200,000 for a weekend, summer-only train.
It also foresees a future that could include passenger service to downstate destinations. The train could eliminate some traffic along U.S. 31 and become a tourist attraction, the report says.
While options and new ideas for improving the region’s transportation infrastructure are always welcome, reality is a tough taskmaster.
Almost $2 million to upgrade track is a lot of money, and a $200,000 operational budget seems a bargain. And that doesn’t include the cost of a train and cars.
The tracks are considered unfit for passenger travel and trains can’t exceed 10 mph. The state has long-term plans to connect the area to downstate destinations, but not to create local service.
This may make sense if the region’s population doubles, but until then it’s rough track all the way.