There was once a rail line that linked Ann Arbor and Traverse City. And according to a new study, bringing it back could invigorate the state and help "attract the next generation workforce that wants to live and thrive in Michigan without depending on a car."

The study was prepared by consulting firm Transportation Economics & Management Systems, Inc. at the behest of the Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities, which "believes that bringing passenger rail service back to northern Michigan is possible in less than a decade with a focused campaign of public engagement, technical analysis, and support from community, state and federal agencies."

Among the reasons reviving the rail line would be viable: Pre-existing, state-owned rail lines, 90,000 college students in the ridership area and "tremendous" public demand, according to the study, which was released this month. 

A call to the Groundwork Center was not immediately returned. 

"Considering only 1 percent growth rate, the number of Traverse City visitors will be 4.3 million in 2045; while a growth rate as high as 4 percent could increase the total number of visitors to 12 million," the study says.

The report contends that demand for rail will increase to the point of improving rail revenues by 40-45 percent over 20 years. 

"This increases the ability of the options to pay for operating costs in the future as market conditions become increasingly favorable to rail," the report says. 

On the lowest end, if all that's created is a 60-mile per hour service doing two round trips daily between Ann Arbor and Traverse City, the study estimates that will generate $13.1 million in revenue by 2030, and almost $22 million by 2050.

On the highest end, with trains running at 110 miles per hour, eight round trips daily, with service extended beyond the original Ann Arbor to Traverse City blueprint, the study estimates it will produce $66.1 million in revenue in 2030 and $113 million in 2050.

The 60-mile per hour rail could be built at a cost of $151 million, while the 110-mile per hour rail would cost north of $1 billion. 

What would come next is another feasibility study to "define the optimal approach to development," and then a public outreach campaign, the consulting group writes. 

See the full report here.

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