Up Against the Clock: Woodhaven may have train solution, but time is running out

Posted at 11:46 AM, Sep 25, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-25 19:27:17-04

WOODHAVEN, Mich. (WXYZ) — As Republicans send a budget plan to the governor’s desk, Woodhaven’s ongoing railroad crossing nightmare may hinge on whether the budget passes through.

Those who travel through Woodhaven on Van Horn Road have been getting stuck for decades, at times for hours.

The simple answer would be to drive around, but because of the placement of a nearby train depot, alternative routes are regularly blocked. In the past, it’s even led to concerns about whether hospital patients could be transported to the nearby trauma-level hospital in time.

The budget passed by the Senate on Monday, now heading for the governor’s office, has a $12 million funding mechanism to help build a bridge over the track. In a cruel twist, the money could become available as Federal funds that have been earmarked since 2005 expire.

The project is expected to cost around $22 million to build. Back in 2005, Rep. John Dingell passed a rider on a bill that earmarked the funds for the project. Since it didn’t cover the entire amount the money has sat, unused. There is hope that work can be done on a federal level to keep the money alive, but it’s set to expire in less than a week at the end of the month.

“We’re working day and night to figure out how can we still use that money,” said House Rep. Darrin Camilleri. “We are trying everything we can. We’ve talked to Senator Stabenow, the Governor’s office — but we don’t have an answer yet.”

State Sen. Stephanie Chang, who pushed for the money in the state senate, said she believes the state funding will come through. That said, if the federal funds evaporate more options will have to be explored. Recently a municipal millage failed that would have put the onus on Woodhaven residents to fund the bridge. Locals are frustrated by the trains, but question why they should have to foot the bill when it’s travelers come from all over the county.

The situation deteriorated so badly that the city posted giant billboards next to the train tracks urging people to call Wayne County, or the train depot’s owner — all that said, Rep. Camilleri believes progress is being made behind-the-scenes to mend fences and make a real fix possible.

Chang told 7 Action News that there is renewed interest given the concerns about safety.

”We’ve heard so many stories from emergency responders themselves” said Sen. Chang. “The hospital, which is a trauma center, and people may be coming from the other side — it’s something that’s brought a lot more attention to the fact that we have to solve this problem.”