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Study to look at whether it makes sense to use train as link in Traverse City area

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. - A non-profit group that advocates for sustainable land use is planning to look at whether it makes sense to use a train to link Traverse City and some nearby communities.

The Michigan Land Use Institute plans to conduct a preliminary feasibility study about using existing railroad track to transport people from downtown Traverse City to the area of Acme Township and Williamsburg, the Traverse City Record-Eagle reports (http://bit.ly/1bqyfEo ).

"We see this not only as an opportunity to provide transportation service, but also down the road, in the long-term it could provide support for some more walkable type of development along the ends of the line," said James Bruckbauer, transportation policy specialist at the Land Use Institute.

Train service would help support a growing population in the area, which includes attractions such as Grand Traverse Resort and the Turtle Creek Casino & Hotel. The idea comes as the Michigan Department of Transportation plans area work on U.S. 31 in 2015.

"This creates an opportunity to talk about, down the road, how do we want to get around the region and do we want more options for getting around our heavily travelled roads?" Bruckbauer said.

The Bay Area Transportation Authority added a bus route from Traverse City to Williamsburg in May. Ridership on the route has consistently ranged between 1,000 and 1,500 rides each month, said Carrie Thompson, the BATA business development director.

Train service would compete with existing bus service.

"In my mind, rail transportation is better suited for higher population densities than we have here in this region," Matt Skeels, co-ordinator for the Traverse City Area Transportation and Land Use Study at the Northwest Michigan Council of Governments.

The study is partially funded by a $5,000 grant from the National Association of Realtors. It aims to look at the costs of the project, whether the train would be geared toward tourists or commuters and what sort of train car might be used for service.

The existing train track, owned by MDOT, is used occasionally to transport lumber.

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Information from: Traverse City Record-Eagle, http://www.record-eagle.com

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