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Muskegon purchases abandoned rail line for around $2 million

In a decision made Tuesday night, Muskegon is purchasing the rail line with big plans in mind.

MUSKEGON, Mich. — The Muskegon City Commission approved a purchase agreement with CSX Transportation to acquire the abandoned rail line that runs from Rotary Park in downtown through the Lakeside Neighborhood and ends at the Jaycees Launch Ramp on Tuesday night.

The purchase price is expected to be $1,648,000.00 but additional fees for a line survey are not included in the price. With the additional expenses added, Muskegon City Manager expects the final total will be around $2 million.

Talks with CSX Transportation and Michigan Shore Railroad started around five years ago. Peterson tells 13 ON YOUR SIDE the rail line has added layers of difficulties for property owners who have wanted to develop waterfront properties on the south shore of Muskegon Lake with the most notable site being the former Sappi paper mill property.

"If you want to be able to put in roads at the former Sappi site you'd have to arrange six or eight crossing agreements," Peterson said. "It will open up a lot of development opportunities, the big one being Windward Pointe. The track will come out, the cross ties will come out, and the city will own and maintain the rail corridor. We could use it as a bike path or we could use it as a walking trail."

The rail line is especially noticeable at the entrance to Fricano Place. In 2009 when owner Ted Fricano opened Fricano's Pizza, two trains a day would pass just a few feet from the entrance to his restaurant.

"And our building would have a little bit of a shake," Fricano said.

Now that the line is being removed, Fricano says he'll do something he's wanted to do for years: improve the entrance to his building, which now includes an events center.

"It's going to be a cobblestone walkway," Fricano said. "This railroad dissects so many parcels...So happy this is going to be removed."

Closing on the deal is expected to take place in the spring of 2022.

Some of the purchase price will be covered with money from the American Rescue Plan Act. Peterson says the city will also be looking for park and rails to trails grants to help cover the cost of the purchase.

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