(New Buffalo, MI) - Amtrak is looking to speed up travel to and from Chicago in parts of Michigan with a rail connection outside New Buffalo.
The New Buffalo City Council has joined St. Joseph and other municipalities in southwest Michigan to support an environmental and engineering study for a rail connection with the CSX tracks.
“There is a lot of momentum behind this,” said New Buffalo City Manager Darwin Watson.
Watson said the connection would be north of New Buffalo and join the Pere Marquette and Wolverine/Blue Water services routes. Passengers from the west could use the Amtrak station in downtown New Buffalo to switch from trains heading north to St. Joseph, Bangor, Holland, and Grand Rapids to trains going east as far as Detroit.
Passengers from the east could stop in New Buffalo and switch to trains heading as far north as Grand Rapids.
“The impact to this community and southwest Michigan would be marvelous,” he said.
The environmental and engineering study is necessary to establish the proposed rail connection and obtain federal money to help with the cost. Support from municipalities in southwest Michigan is being sought to put up a united front in seeking financial help from Washington D.C. Watson said the amount of dollars being targeted by the current administration for infrastructure nationwide increases the odds of securing federal funding.
New Buffalo Mayor John Humphrey said the proposed connection would positively impact, but how much was too early to speculate. However, he said there would be an incentive for some people to live in New Buffalo and work elsewhere.
Humphrey also sees potential for increased visitors and commercial development, though it wouldn't be only about increasing tourism. Instead, he believes the benefits would be better if stops were scheduled at the most sought-after times.
“The eleven o’clock in the morning train doesn’t make it the most convenient if you were trying to work in Chicago,” he said.