GRAND RAPIDS (WZZM) – A new rail gateway between Grand Rapids and Chicago is now open for business.
The first Amtrak train departed at 7:40 a.m. Monday from the new, $6.1 million Vernon J. Ehlers Amtrak Station. It's located next to the Rapid's central hub on Grandville Avenue SW, allowing people to easily go from train to bus. The station also has better parking and is handicap accessible.
State and local leaders were on hand for the dedication ceremony, including Senator Carl Levin. The station is named after former U.S. Congressman from Grand Rapids, Vern Ehlers. His daughter was there on Ehlers' behalf.
"He's very thrilled about this station. He was able to tour it a few weeks ago and he's thrilled about it," said Marla Ehlers.
Levin spoke highly of Ehlers at Monday's ceremony. "(He was) a man of great integrity. A man of science, not ideology. He believed in facts, science. He believed in knowing the facts, not the rhetoric."
Amtrak reports that about 50,000 passengers per year travel in and out of the Grand Rapids station. That's half of the entire ridership of the Pere Marquette line. And the new station will provide a much more welcoming greeting for people coming and going from Grand Rapids.