DEARBORN, MICH.—On December 15, 2014, the public was invited to tour the new John D. Dingell Transit Center in Dearborn’s West Downtown area; rail and bus service to the facility began on December 10.
Earlier in the day, a ribbon cutting ceremony was held with the numerous partners who have been involved with the project for more than a decade. Speakers included Dearborn Mayor John B. O’Reilly, Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph Szabo, Michigan Department of Transportation Office of Rail Director Tim Hoeffner, Henry Ford Museum President Patricia Mooradian and Amtrak Board Member Thomas Carper.
Retiring Congressman John D. Dingell, for whom the intermodal center is named, was represented by his wife Deborah Dingell, who was elected to Congress this past November. John Dingell has represented Southeast Michigan in the U.S. House of Representatives since 1955 and is currently the longest serving member of that legislative body.
The transit center, which replaced a smaller Amtrak depot located about two miles east, is within easy walking distance of shops, restaurants and businesses along Michigan Avenue, as well as the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village. The University of Michigan-Dearborn and Henry Ford Community College are also nearby and connect to the site via the Rouge River Gateway Greenway. In addition to Amtrak Wolverine trains, the center is served by Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation (SMART), Detroit Department of Transportation and intercity buses.
Designed by local firm Neumann/Smith, the 16,000 square foot transit center draws on historic railroad architecture, combining traditional red brick with large expanses of glass. As passengers approach, they are greeted by a clock tower with gabled roof. The two-story waiting room includes tall round-arched windows, as well as square windows below the roof line. Altogether, they allow ample natural light to bathe the interior throughout the day. Passengers can take advantage of complimentary Wi-Fi and there is also an onsite restaurant. Public art includes a mosaic entitled “Transformations” that was designed by Dearborn high school students.
Through the selection and use of environmentally friendly materials and design solutions, the John D. Dingell Transit Center achieved a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver certification. Sustainable features include a metal roof with solar collectors, energy-efficient lighting and geothermal heating and cooling. Project funding came through a $28.2 million High Speed and Intercity Passenger Rail grant from the Federal Railroad Administration.
City leaders view the station as a potential anchor for mixed-use, transit-oriented development on the eastern end of West Downtown, thereby forming a new gateway to the community. In a city press release, Mayor O’Reilly noted, “We are excited not just to open this station, but to be part of the future of rail transportation. Today marks just the start of the possibilities for economic growth; for greater links between Dearborn, the region and the Midwest; and for our ability to showcase our outstanding community to more visitors, more customers and more employees attracted to our city because of convenient connections.”
One of the busiest Amtrak stations in Michigan, Dearborn is served by six Wolverine Service (Pontiac-Detroit-Chicago) trains each day. In fiscal year 2014, more than 78,000 travelers began or ended their journey at the former Dearborn station.
The State of Michigan purchased the Dearborn-Kalamazoo portion of the Wolverine corridor in late 2012 from Norfolk Southern Railway (Amtrak owns a section to the west between Kalamazoo and Porter, Ind.). Michigan is currently undertaking various upgrades on the line including tie, rail and switch replacement and improvements to grade crossings and signal systems. These projects are expected to be completed in 2016.
Following Michigan’s purchase, approximately two-thirds of the Wolverine corridor is under the control of Amtrak and Michigan DOT. Together, the partners aim to reduce travel times between Chicago and Detroit from 5 hours, 15 minutes, to less than four hours.