After Years of Planning, Birmingham Pulls Out of Transit Plan with Troy

April 25--A transit station along the Troy-Birmingham border that has been in the works for more than a decade has hit a fork in the road, leaving Troy officials unsure which way to turn.

Birmingham officials decided earlier this month against buying a piece of land that would have been part of the 2,500-square-foot station that would straddle the railroad tracks between Birmingham's Amtrak station and Troy's Midtown shopping center off Maple and Doyle. Part of the land that would house the station was in the original legal agreement for the shopping center to be built.

The property is nestled near a school bus depot and the tracks. The owner wanted more than the roughly $500,000 the city had to offer.

"We could have used eminent domain," said Robert Bruner, Birmingham city manager, "but it would have been expensive. Eminent domain doesn't solve our problem of time and money."

Without Birmingham's participation in the $10-million federally funded project, Troy city officials said they are investigating either having the station solely on Troy property, or accessing the railroad right-of-way by the tracks on the Birmingham side. The current Amtrak station is a repurposed bus shelter with little parking. However, the infrastructure surrounding it in Birmingham is mixed-use residential and business, nearly all of which is new development.

"In the back of our minds, we always knew we'd have to have an alternative," said Mark Miller, Troy assistant city manager. "We were on the one-yard line, and by Birmingham not going forward, we've had to revise our plan."

In 1999, the developers of the shopping center, Grand Sakwa, entered into an agreement with Troy to build on the former tractor company land, deeding the city part of the land for the transit station and parking, Miller said. The city had a decade to implement the transit project.

In 2006, Troy received state funds to draw up a plan for the transit station, which officials said would improve the walkability of the area and create safe transportation options for those not using cars. Projections in a 2009 report put use of the train station ranging from 19,700 people in 2008 to 24,700 by 2012.

Without Birmingham's participation, Miller said, it's unclear what will happen. Troy's attorneys will meet Grand Sakwa's attorneys in court in May to hammer out what will happen to the shopping center land deeded to the city.

"The plans aren't fully developed," Miller said. "Troy managed the project, but this was a total joint venture."

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