AATA Gets WALLY Update

At its April 19, 2012 meeting, the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority board received a written report in its board packet with a eight-page update on the status of WALLY (Washtenaw and Livingston Railway), which is envisioned to provide north-south commuter rail service between Howell and Ann Arbor.

The conclusion of the report is a staff recommendation to expend funds ($50,000) already included in the FY 2012 budget that are designated for the WALLY project. The report includes a draft resolution that the board could use to authorize the funds.

Ordinarily, the expenditure of funds from the budget would not necessarily need an explicit board authorization. However, in the case of the WALLY project, the board stipulated in a Sept. 15, 2011 resolution that the $50,000 designated for WALLY in the FY 2012 budget would not be expended without the explicit consent of the board. [See Chronicle coverage: "AATA on WALLY Rail: Forward with Caution"]

One of the challenges for WALLY is the cooperation of the Ann Arbor Railroad in the use of the tracks south of roughly Barton and Plymouth Roads on the north side of Ann Arbor. Ideally, the commuter service would extend farther south into Ann Arbor. The report contains a description of an Oct. 12, 2011 meeting between Ann Arbor Railroad president Jim Erickson and AATA CEO Michael Ford, when Ann Arbor Railroad’s expressed continued general opposition to passenger service on its property. However, the meeting offered some possibility that Ann Arbor Railroad would at least work with AATA on the issue of railcar storage immediately south of a WALLY station. And the report describes Ann Arbor Railroad as willing to entertain a “business proposition.”  [.pdf of April 2012 WALLY update]

CEO Michael Ford indicated at the April 19 meeting that more work would be needed before the issue of WALLY could be brought before the whole board.

This brief was filed from the downtown location of the Ann Arbor District Library, where the AATA board holds its meetings. A more detailed report will follow: [link]