November 29, 2014

Standish Depot to reopen high-speed passenger service

By Kevin Bunch
Staff Writer | news@arenacindependent.com
Posted

STANDISH — After decades of disuse as a rail station, the Standish Historical Depot will be part of a line running high-speed rail service along the eastern coast of the state.

The high-speed rail line is not expected to open until 2015, but once completed it would link Mackinaw City to Flint, with trains clocking speeds of 120 miles per hour.

“We believe it would help bring people up along the sunrise side corridor for recreational activities,” said train consultant and enthusiast Dr. Sheldon Cooper. “People can come up and go hiking, fishing, canoeing, or any number of other activities along that stretch.”

With trains speeding along at 120 miles per hour, Cooper said motorists would just have to be more vigilant at train crossings to prevent accidents.

“People are smart enough to make sure there are no trains coming, though we are discussing adding in some crossing arms for major intersections,” Cooper said.

Cooper said the state government sought funding for the project after other states, such as Florida, rejected money allotted for high-speed rail projects. Under the proposal, trains will leave three times a day, going north and south.

Additional stops are planned in cities such as Tawas, Harrisville, and Alpena.

Chinese, French, and Japanese companies are vying for the contract to provide train cars for the route. The French company, Le Faux Affaires, is offering full complementary French cuisine on its cars, making it the favorite, according to Cooper.

Construction firm Jones & Steel has already won the low bid to put down new tracks and upgrading the existing ones where applicable.

Tickets for the inaugural ride are already being discussed among celebrity circles, with people such as pro wrestler “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and web series guru Felicia Day rumored to be looking to take part, according to state transportation spokesman Terry Bogard.

“Utilizing historical train stations will be both a cost-saving measure and a way to bring history enthusiasts to the area,” Bogard said. “We are even hoping to use vintage ticketing equipment.”

The station will require some changes to fit federal guidelines. The parking lot will need to be expanded, as will seating at the depot itself. Bogard recommended the city of Standish raise the funds for the expansion by creating a series of toll stations along Grove Street, City Limits Road, and M-61.

Nobody from the Arenac Heritage Route Authority could be reached for comment. The groundbreaking should begin later this year.

Happy April Fool’s Day from the Arenac Independent!

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