Transportation & Community Design

North-South Passenger Rail Project

Broad support from the community and funders has allowed us to press for passenger rail between north and south Michigan. Rail will achieve energy-efficient, safe travel, and economic development in communities
all along the route. Photo: Holland Sentinel


Frequently Asked Questions

Where did the idea for a passenger rail from southeast Michigan, through mid-Michigan and to Traverse City and Petoskey come from?

Surveys of people in Lower Michigan and opinions expressed by northwest Michigan citizens in the Grand Vision community planning process revealed that the No. 1 transportation infrastructure addition Michiganders wanted was passenger rail service to Traverse City.

I see that WexExpress is playing an important role in the project's next phase–please elaborate.

The Cadillac / Wexford Transit Authorrity, branded "WexExpress," and its executive director, Carrie Thompson, will be very involved with managing the grant for the next phase study and will play a key role in working with the Michigan Department of Transportation and the Federal Transportation Administration's Chicago office. WexExpress and Carrie will also serve as important cultural connectors with other mid-Michigan towns and will bring the crucial perspective of a transit authority when deciding how best to tie the rail into other transit options, like buses, for example.

What’s the next step needed to make passenger rail a reality?

Starting in 2023, Groundwork and the Cadillac/Wexford Transit Authority will work with state and federal agencies over the course of 24 months to create a detailed plan that will outline exactly how the new train service would operate along the line and identify its top infrastructure needs.

What are some specific study areas you'll be exploring?

Groundwork, WexExpress, and other partners will be working with and connecting with communities along the line to visualize what service will look like in the individual towns. Part of the work will more fully assess which towns will become stops on the line. For towns that are likely to be stops, we will assess specific needs. Does the town want to update a historic rail station? If a community wants a new station, where do locals want it placed? What will a rail stop mean from an economic standpoint? What about other transportation connections—the bus system, multi-modal connections? How do we best connect the rail station to key business districts? During the study's engagement process, we will be excited to engage youth, especially the tens of thousands of college students along the line.


Is this rail project part of a larger national plan to upgrade and modernize passenger rail?

Yes, the nation is investing more in passenger rail than at any time in several decades. In Michigan, in addition to the north-south rail, a high-profile project is upgrading the Detroit to Chicago line to 110 mph. More broadly, Chicago's in-city and regional rail network are receiving billions of dollars to modernize and maintain the city's role as a nationally important rail hub. The East and West Coasts are likewise receiving billions to build and expand high-speed rail. And the first privately funded passenger rail in a century just opened in Florida, in fall of 2023.

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021 allocated $66 billion over five years to fund passenger rail projects nationwide. With this historic investment, now is the time for Michigan to advance our state's rail system.

Rail is a vital part of Michigan's clean mobility future. Together, with state leadership, we can ensure that trains play a major role in strengthening Michigan’s economy.


Who is the main contact for questions about the passenger rail program?

Please contact Carolyn Ulstad Transportation Program Manager.

Take Action!

  • Contact your state and federal elected representatives and let them know you support the proposed passenger rail.
  • If your community is on the rail line, work with local officials to build support for the train.
  • Engagement in public meetings to share thoughts and help maximize the beneifts of passenger rail in your community.
  • Please contact Carolyn Ulstad Transportation Program Manager.