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TIGER Grant Application for $70M Project

March 19, 2012 — The City of New Buffalo, in partnership with Amtrak and the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT,) submitted a U.S. Department of Transportation TIGER grant application for the Western Michigan Intercity Passenger Rail Connectivity and Expansion Initiative.

This $70,802,753 project requests $56,642,202 in grant funds to supplement $14,160,551 in matching funds provided by MDOT for two purposes:

  1. Design of a connection track between the Amtrak-owned corridor and CSX at New Buffalo, Michigan.
  2. Extension of the Dowagiac, Michigan siding to the Niles, Michigan siding, a distance of approximately ten miles.

If these project elements are successfully implemented, they will not only benefit New Buffalo, but all of the Michigan Amtrak Service lines:  Pere MarquetteWolverine and Blue Water.

The Pere Marquette serves the Chicago-Grand Rapids rail corridor.  New Buffalo’s old Amtrak Station (prior to October 2009) was serviced by the Pere Marquette.  It was located on South Whittaker Street, on the south-side tracks owned by CSX (at Washington Street.)

In October 2009, through funding and construction via a private-public partnership, the City of New Buffalo opened our new platform on North Whittaker Street on the north-side tracks owned by Amtrak (at Oselka Drive.)  This new platform is served by the Wolverine (Chicago-Detroit) and Blue Water (Chicago-Port Huron.)  New Buffalo did not like giving up our Grand Rapids connection, but the new platform increased overall service.  If the proposed connection track gets built, Pere Marquette service will be restored.

In 2009, the New Buffalo Amtrak Station had a ridership of 4,237.  In 2011, ridership increased over 200% to 12,881.  Restoration of Pere Marquette service will likely increase ridership even more.

The proposed New Buffalo rail connection represents more than just adding New Buffalo as a Pere Marquette stop.  Pere Marquette trains between Porter, Indiana and New Buffalo would be able to take advantage of new 110 mph train speeds, providing better service.  In the future, Chicago to Porter, Indiana tracks will also receive upgrades to allow for 110 mph speeds.

The narrative for the grant application explains the project in greater detail.  The City is thankful for the letters and resolutions of support from Amtrak, MDOT, Michigan State Senate, Michigan State House of Representatives, New Buffalo Township, City of Niles, City of Dowagiac, Southwest Michigan Planning Commission, Grand Valley Metropolitan Council, and Macatawa Coordinating Council.  

(More information about TIGER grants is located in the Federal Register.)