Ceremony celebrates Troy Transit Center opening
More than 200 people witnessed the ribbon-cutting for the new Troy Transit Center Tuesday, including Brian Smiatacz, 36, who had two kids in tow.
Four-year-old Adam, and Grace, 2, came outfitted with train engineer hats.
"They've been waiting for a year for this to open," Smiatacz said. "We were watching it get built. It took a long time for this to happen."
The $6.3 million facility took 14 years to complete. It replaces a much smaller stop about a quarter mile down the tracks. Located at the southwest corner of Maple and Coolidge, the station provides shelter from the elements, as well as free complimentary short- and long-term parking.
"This is a big day for Troy, and a big day for Oakland County," Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson said.
Sarah Wodtke, 36, of Rochester, has waited a long time for the center to open. She travels to Chicago every other week for her job.
"It's the availability and the safe parking," Wodtke said of the new station. "It's faster for me to get here — much faster than going downtown."
The center is a major improvement for the railroad company's service, which includes six daily trains between Pontiac and Chicago via Troy, Detroit, Dearborn and Ann Arbor, Amtrak officials say.
Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said the Troy Transit Center is the first of three new stations opening in Michigan this year. Stations in Grand Rapids and Dearborn will open over the next six weeks. A fourth station is under construction in East Lansing, and talks are underway about new stations proposed for Ann Arbor and Port Huron, Magliari said.
"(The Troy Transit Center) is built for growth, because in the state of Michigan we have plans over the long term to add service," Magliari said. "We know there's demand."
The project overcame numerous hurdles since 2000, when the city initially partnered with the neighboring community of Birmingham to build the center. At that time, real estate developer Grand Sakwa Properties donated the land with the condition that funding for the transit center be secured by 2010. Birmingham backed out a year later.
Troy secured an $8.4 million federal grant, but Grand Sakwa said the money wasn't acquired before the deadline, meaning the property ownership reverted to the company. The city took the developer to court and offered to pay the company $550,000, based on a 2010 appraisal.
The City Council approved a scaled-down version of the transit center in January 2012. Construction of the 2,000-square-foot center was completed last fall. But Amtrak officials said the company couldn't sign a lease until the city had title to the property.
In May 2013, an appeals court granted the reversion of the parcel. Troy initiated a condemnation case, allowing the city to buy the site, officials said. Then in February 2014, an Oakland County circuit judge dismissed the city's lawsuit, affirming Grand Sakwa's ownership of the land.
Two months ago, an Oakland County circuit judge issued an order transferring title to the property to Troy, on condition that the city pay Grand Sakwa $1.05 million.
Nick Fiorvento, of Shelby Township, came prepared to board the train Tuesday. He was headed back to Albion College, where he's a junior, carrying a duffel bag, lunch box, umbrella and ample reading materials.
"It's going to make it a lot easier for me to get home."