Arbor Update

Ann Arbor Area Community News

Next-gen "hydrogen superhighway" proposal to get local public hearing, July 10

26. June 2009 • Murph
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Rendering from

Every few years, Brighton-based Interstate Traveler Company pops up briefly with their visions of solar-generated hydrogen-powered mag-lev high-speed rail pods that could carry everything from people to individual automobiles to freight, provide conduits for public utilities, revitalize the American steel industry, and even provide remedies for drought and famine, all through private investment expense.

Usually, their appearances get no more than a single news article, but this time they seem to have found traction. On June 15, the company presented to a State task force, claiming they had $2B in private investment lined up to build a Lansing-Detroit line. They would require the State’s involvement only in providing permission to use highway right-of-ways for the system, which would be built on elevated tracks built in the medians of I-96, US-23, and I-94.

The proposal will now get a public hearing locally on July 10, from 10am – noon, at the University of Michigan’s Palmer Commons. Later presentations are planned for Grand Rapids and Detroit, according to the A2News.

The proposal has its skeptics, including commenters on the DetroitYES forums and The Transport Politic blog. State Rep. Bill Rogers (R-Brighton), who heads the legislative task force, responds that a privately-funded system is at least worth a look. As quoted by DetNews, “If they truly can finance it, I don’t know why it couldn’t exist,” Rogers said. “I just don’t know if the money is there.”

  1. 2 Billion … fat chance. When Chicago tried to lease Midway airport, a massive travel hub, for 99 years, they were shooting for between 2.5 and 3 Billion. That agreement quickly fell apart.

       —Matt Hampel    Jun. 26 '09 - 11:56PM    #
  2. Proof that the state legislature is often a dumping ground for worst of the political class.

       —John Q.    Jun. 27 '09 - 02:34AM    #
  3. Their website also features graphics from the mid-90s that still manage to crash my browser, as well as “engineering renderings” that look like they come out of the 70s. Check out the staff uniforms and car design.

       —Matt Hampel    Jun. 27 '09 - 03:15AM    #
  4. This would be a good laugh if it weren’t such a sad comment on the state of Michigan’s transportation systems, and if the Legislature wasn’t also slashing funding for Amtrak (we may lose two of our three routes; and public transit.

    I guess if you go long enough without seeing a horse, you forget the difference between one of those and a unicorn. (Hint: one of those is for real.)
       —Joel Batterman    Jun. 30 '09 - 05:09AM    #
  5. Joel, I love the unicorn line. You’ve piqued my interest: what should the Legislature be doing? Where could increased Amtrak funding come from?

       —Sean Eldon    Jun. 30 '09 - 06:14AM    #
  6. Umm…fund trains through increased taxes? And please don’t bother with the ‘it isn’t the right time to raise taxes’ argument. It’s never the right time in Michigan.

    We just turned away millions and millions in infrastructure stimulus monies because we couldn’t provide a state/local match. Most federal projects are split 80/20 (feds 80, state/local 20)…try and find that kind of return on wall street.

    I’ve been a Detroit & Michigan booster now for just under 15 years, but i haven’t seen much fundamental change in that time. Suburbs still fight Detroit, southeast still fights west/north, etc., etc.

    As we make slight modifications to the status quo, overall education funding drops, transportation funding drops, etc., etc.

    I would welcome an intelligent discourse on the proper roles of robust governmental revenues allocated in efficient, yet equitable manners. We haven’t be able to do this on a statewide level in my lifetime because Oakland County (and plenty of other Republicrats areas) can’t move beyond ‘taxes/revenues are bad, big government (which is defined as the parts of government they don’t like) is bad.’

    Meanwhile, levels of state services slide into the toilet (luckily the current federal government has stuffed some toilet paper into the drain for awhile) and people/jobs continue to leave the state.

    I pose a question: how do we expect the industries ‘of the future’ to be interested in us if we can’t maintain basic infrastructure, let alone fund ‘luxuries’ such as trains?

    Are we going instead to turn our state into a commodities broker and pipe off the lakes until they’re giant chasms, or will we sell our souls to some nasty industry (like Louisiana and it’s petrochemical companies)?

       —kena    Jun. 30 '09 - 08:43AM    #
  7. Kena, I hope those aren’t Michigan’s only options. Which is why I asked Joel, what should be done.

    Michigan needs new prescriptions for sustainable economic growth, and it seems that the patient might just be sick enough to listen. Kena may be right about Oakland County’s historical reluctance to support government programs and institutions, but it’s not exactly boom time in O.C. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, O.C.‘s unemployment rate was up to 11.3% in April. And O.C. has seen the same disastrous decline in housing values that other areas around the state have. It seems to me now would be the ideal time to look at O.C. and its voters with new eyes.

       —Sean Eldon    Jun. 30 '09 - 06:40PM    #