By John Rothwell – Collegiate Staff
West Michigan dignitaries and local community members gathered Oct. 27 to celebrate the highly anticipated opening of the Vernon J. Ehlers Amtrak Station in Grand Rapids.
The groundbreaking took place in 2011, but numerous construction delays caused the opening to be pushed back several times.
Replacing what many referred to as the “Amshack” that was located on the corner of Wealthy St. and Market Ave., the station’s new location, 440 Century Ave. S.W. is next to the Rapid bus terminal and will be a great welcome for travelers. The new station offers easy access to the city’s major bus routes, taxi service, and downtown Grand Rapids.
“This station represents another entity being offered in a vibrant urban region,” said state transportation commissioner Lynn Afendoulis.
Amtrak reports each year, some 50,000 riders travel in and out of Grand Rapids. Currently there is only one train leaving and returning each day that serves Grand Rapids. Local and state leaders are asking for more.
“Amtrak is important, not only for the Midwest but for good parts of the country, U.S Representative Fred Upton said. “It would be great to have two round trips. Maybe that’s in the offing.”
The $6.1 million station is named after former West Michigan congressman Vernon Ehlers, and was funded by a $4.6 million grant from the Department of Transportation. Ehlers served on the House Transportation committee. Other federal, state and local funds were raised to help with the cost.