Killing of Fuller Road Station MOU: Delayed

Official confirmation of the termination of a four-year-old memorandum of understanding between the city of Ann Arbor and the University of Michigan on Fuller Road Station has been delayed by the Ann Arbor city council.

The item had been added to the agenda on the day of the council’s Dec. 16, 2013 meeting by Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3). He had attempted to add the item on Friday before the Monday meeting, but had not managed to do that. In that context, during the Dec. 16 meeting Kunselman asked for a postponement, even though other councilmembers seemed inclined to vote for it without much debate.

Fuller Road Station was a planned joint city/UM parking structure, bus depot and possible train station located at the city’s Fuller Park near the UM medical campus. The council had approved the MOU on the Fuller Road station project at its Nov. 5, 2009 meeting on a unanimous vote.  [.pdf of Nov. 5, 2009 MOU text as approved by the city council]

However, a withdrawal of UM from the project, which took place under the terms of the MOU, was announced Feb. 10, 2012. So it’s been clear for nearly two years that the MOU was a dead letter.

The idea to terminate the MOU has its origins in election campaign rhetoric. Kunselman had stated at a June 8, 2013 Democratic primary candidate forum that he intended to bring forth such a resolution to “kill” the Fuller Road Station project. From The Chronicle’s report of that forum:

Kunselman also stated that he would be proposing that the city council rescind its memorandum of understanding with the University of Michigan to build a parking structure as part of the Fuller Road Station project.

Although UM has withdrawn from participation in that project under the MOU, Kunselman said he wanted to “kill it.” That way, he said, the conversation could turn away from using the designated parkland at the Fuller Road Station site as a new train station, and could instead be focused on the site across the tracks from the existing Amtrak station.

Kunselman prevailed in that Democratic contest over Julie Grand. He has since taken out petitions to run for mayor in 2014. Current mayor John Hieftje has announced that he will not be seeking re-election to an eighth two-year term.

The city continues to pursue the possibility of a newly built or reconstructed train station, but not necessarily with the University of Michigan’s participation, and without a pre-determined preferred alternative for the site of a new station. At its Oct. 21, 2013 meeting, the council approved a contract with URS Corp. Inc. to carry out an environmental review of the Ann Arbor Station project – which should yield the determination of a locally-preferred alternative for a site.

That rail station project relates most immediately to the prospect that Amtrak will be offering improved intercity service on the Chicago-Detroit Amtrak line.

The total budgeted for the Ann Arbor Station contract at the Oct. 21 meeting – which covers public engagement, site selection and conceptual design – was $824,875, an amount that includes a $63,083 contingency. The city will pay 20% of that, or about $165,000. A transfer of $550,000 to the city’s major grant fund was approved a year ago by the city council at its Oct. 15, 2012 meeting for the total project budget.

The federal grant that will cover 80% of the project cost, up to $2.8 million for the federal share, had been accepted by the council at its June 4, 2012 meeting. So for the contract approved on Oct. 21, the city’s share worked out to approximately $165,000, with the Federal Rail Authority covering the remaining $660,000.

This brief was filed from the city council’s chambers on the second floor of city hall, located at 301 E. Huron. A more detailed report will follow: [link]