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The usage of the rail line

Does the railway still in use or going to be used in the future? Does Ford want to redesign the railway area?

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Michigan Central Station

  • Yes

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Photo of Mackenzie Fankell

Amy Z  I am a Michigan Central Station Challenge facilitator. Thank you for posting these excellent questions! I believe that these questions are still yet to be determined. Do you envision that rail would be the best way to improve mobility in the area? I am interested in knowing if you have observed any mobility gaps in the area that could be improved.

Photo of Amy Z

Thanks for your comment, Mackenzie! Briefly introduce my shallow background, I am currently a transportation engineering student from Wayne State University, and used to be employed as an urban planner in Beijing for a few years. Here's some of my thought. By overviewing the routes of the railway, it connects to Ford's Dearborn area, which is the potential value for the rail. As we can see in I-94 and many Dearborn local streets, the large number of Ford employees' commute activities created a significant traffic impact, such as traffic delay and harsh street pavement due to high usage. Therefore, possible high traffic volume at the new Central Station, which a lot lead by Ford employees would create traffic pressure at some certain time period too.

I think a commuter train to move people from Ford Dearborn to the Central Station could primarily lower the traffic volume near the Central station area and save some area for the parking space. I think the cost is much lower than remove them. That's just my the first impression by looking at this project. Do you think Ford may consider investing funding for it? Let me know your thoughts. However, I need to do more research on it.

By getting some feedback from you and echo from the investor, I wish to gather some ideas and put into a design proposal for this Challenge.

I am very excited to see the event going to kick off soon, wish it goes smoothly and successful!

Photo of Peter Dudley

When Ford Motor Company purchased Michigan Central Station (MCS) in June 2018, a Ford spokesperson stated that four parallel passenger platform tracks would be "protected", in advance of a possible return of rail passenger service.
That's where things start to get complicated.
Eighteen tracks wide and almost two city blocks long, the adjacent MCS Viaduct was completed in 1914 (shortly after MCS opened). It's the largest railroad bridge ever completed in Detroit. Almost half of the available space at the original MCS complex was located under the tracks.
When Conrail divested itself of MCS more than thirty years ago, the elevated tracks and the station's "headhouse" were sold-separately.
Today, Ford owns the MCS "headhouse", while the MCS Viaduct, all eighteen tracks (and vacated trackways) running over it, and all of the long-vacant space under the 1914 bridgework, are controlled by Canadian Pacific Railway (CP).
CP also controls the nearby 1910 Detroit River Tunnel.
At a certain point west of MCS (c. 23rd Street, I believe), ownership of the Michigan Line mainline changes from CP to Conrail Shared Assets / Detroit, which is jointly-owned by CSX Transportation and Norfolk Southern Railway (NS).
Mainline ownership changes again at Town Line Junction in Dearborn. Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) acquired the Michigan Line segment running between Town Line and Kalamazoo from NS several years ago. Amtrak and MDOT are upgading this line to enable 110-mph rail passenger service.
110-mph speeds have been in effect along the Amtrak-owned (since 1976) Michigan Line segment (running between Kalamazoo and Porter IN) for more than five years.
Originally, the MCS Viaduct featured ten passenger-platform through-sidings, running under a massive Train Shed. CP demolished the shed c. 2000, in order to utilize the platform tracks as part of its Expressway Yard (which briefly handled too-tall double-stack container cars). CP re-located its double-stack operations west of Livernois Avenue c. 2004.
Recently, U.S. Postal Service paved-over the east ends of MCS Tracks 1 through 6, in favor of a postal truck parking lot. These stub-ended trackless platforms might be still-usable for commuter service west of MCS, but they aren't currently-available to connect with the tunnel (or downtown Detroit, for that matter).
That leaves MCS Tracks 7, 8, 9, and 10 as usable through-siding passenger platform tracks. Track 11 might also be available, but I'm not sure if the under-the-tracks "Passenger Subway" pedestrian corridor extends that far.
The through-sidings are important. Amtrak is considering a revival of international rail passenger service via the nearby 1910 Detroit River Tunnel, by inaugurating a Chicago / Detroit (MCS) / Windsor / Toronto train.
Click on the attached link to access a recent Google satellite view, which includes labels for all eighteen tracks at MCS.

Photo of Peter Dudley

There are several options for parking near Ford's Michigan Central Station (MCS).
During Ford's four-day MCS Open House (June 2018), the former - (long-trackless) MCS Coach Yard became a temporary parking lot for thousands of visitors. If this area becomes a permanent parking lot, an old tunnel running across West Vernor Highway could be adaptively-reused to connect the lot with the former - MCS Boiler Room, located under the station's Carriage Entrance (aka Cab Stand). The tunnel might provide a safer alternative for crossing busy West Vernor, especially during winter months.
I believe the long-vacant MCS Mail Room, located under MCS Tracks 1 through 10 (southeast of the Passenger Subway pedestrian corridor), provided parking for station employees after Railway Mail Service / Railway Post Office (RPO) operations ended in 1967. All of the space under the 1914 MCS Viaduct is currently-controlled by Canadian Pacific Railway (CP), I believe.
Another parking possibility: The Albert Kahn - designed 1933 Roosevelt Park Railway Mail Service Annex, more-notoriously-known today as the former - Detroit Public Schools Roosevelt Warehouse, was included in Ford's $90 million MCS purchase. This view (included in the attached link below) looks southeast from MCS's East Entrance.
Ford has cleaned-up the interior of this structure, which was gutted during a 1987 fire. The building's outer walls are intact -- I hope they will eventually house a new enclosed parking structure.
The bridge (foreground) connects MCS's East Entrance to the station's former - (inadequate) parking lot, where DEPOT LOOP streetcars arrived and departed until 1938 (there's an idea for M-1 RAIL!)
The bridge crosses a depressed-descending driveway leading to the station's former - Mail Room, located under ten of the station's parallel passenger platform tracks (out-of-frame, right).
Just inside the East Entrance, the Elevator Lobby features six elevators leading to the office floors above. The Arcade (a vaulted corridor lined with long-empty storefronts) connects the Elevator Lobby with the station's centrally-located Ticket Lobby.
Conveyor belts, running through tunnels crossing under 15th Street, once connected the MCS Mail Room to the Annex (moving sidewalks, anyone?)

Photo of Peter Dudley

This excerpt from a 1921 Sanborn fire insurance map shows how the long-empty space under the MCS Viaduct was once used.
"17th Street" (under the tracks) hosts today's West Vernor Highway underpass, running parallel with the "Private Drive" (which provided access to baggage and express freight loading docks).
Note that a public pedestrian tunnel connected Newark and 15th streets (right). This "subway" was the first part of the viaduct completed across (under) all eighteen tracks.

Photo of Amy Z

Appreciate your posts, Mr. Dudley. I've carefully reviewed all of them. I have a question, do you know any resources shows each of the 18 tracks' destinations?

Photo of Amy Z

Good morning, Mackenzie! We have grouped a team and started our study for this Michigan Central Station project. I have two things that want to get your assist. Firstly, is there a final product format that requires to submit, such as the submission of a video is optional or a must? Do we need to prepare a board that fit all our design, pics, writings, and budgets into one or two big ones? Secondly, can I have a Central Station new building usage report, such as how much space for office/restaurant/hotel use and planned to serve how many ford employee/other companies' employee/restaurant dining in customers/visitors? It will be helpful to analysis traffic distribution and get workable solutions. My email is Post here or send me through email both works.
I am looking forward to your response.

Photo of Mackenzie Fankell

Alexander Hoffmann  is more familiar with the formal proposal process of the challenge. Alex, do you have an answer to Amy Z question?

Photo of Mackenzie Fankell

Amy Z  Sorry I am just seeing this post for the first time! I am excited to hear that you are working on a proposal for this challenge. I'd love to give you some feedback as best as I can. Can you create a proposal post on the Proposal Phase page so that I can have more information about what you are working on? If you are still working on the details of the proposal, take your time.

Photo of Alexander Hoffmann

Hi Amy Z thanks for your interest in this Challenge. I'll answer your questions as best I can.

1. The final product format right now will be the proposal form you see in the open Propose Phase. Beyond that, you are able to attach relevant documents and link your supporting information as well.
- You do not need to prepare a board to submit the documentation, as we will be analyzing the proposals digitally.
2. Regarding the building usage report, I don't personally have the context to provide you with that information, but if you were to approach the information center in Corktown, (near The Factory), it might be able to provide further information about the use of the building.

I hope this helps!