John David Dingell was elected to Congress in 1932 to represent a district that included sections of Detroit and Wayne County. He served until his death in 1955. His son, John David Dingell, Jr. was elected to replace his father and he represented the Detroit area in Washington until his retirement in early 2015. His wife, Deborah Insley Dingell, was elected to Congress in 2014 to replace her husband. Thus, a Detroit-area Michigan congressional seat has been held by members of the Dingell family for 82 consecutive years.
One of the key tasks facing a member of Congress is to ensure that an appropriate and fair share of federal spending is allocated to his or her district. After the economic crisis that began in 2008 and devastated the country, Congress in February, 2009 enacted the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act that sought to stimulate the economy and create employment by channeling about $787 billion federal funds to local areas for the improvement of infrastructure. On August 19, 2011, federal officials announced that $28.2 million would be available for the construction of a transportation center in Dearborn. This would serve as a depot for Amtrak and also as a hub for the local bus network. Importantly, it would also be a gateway to Henry Ford’s Greenfield Village. Passengers alighting from trains or buses could walk across an archway spanning the Michigan Central Railroad Tracks and find themselves at the gate of Greenfield Village. Extensive parking is available and surrounds this modern 16,000 square foot depot that opened December 9, 2014.
This transportation gateway may be quite busy in the future. Much of the rail line from Detroit to Chicago will be upgraded for 115-mile-per-hour operation by the end of 2015. State planners envision ten round trips on that line within a decade or so, an increase from the present three round trips. Railroad engines and rail cars are presently available to reestablish Detroit to Ann Arbor commuter service.
The John Dingell Transportation Center was one of three new Amtrak depots built in Michigan in recently. A new station opened in Grand Rapids in October, 2014 and another in Troy that same year. The city of Dearborn owns this new Dearborn station. The rail tracks are owned by Norfolk Southern. Ten students from senior high schools in Dearborn created a mosaic called “Pockets of Perceptions” for the lobby of this depot. Alas, I failed to take a picture when I visited the depot.
The new depot, at least in the short run, did not generate a jump in rail passengers. In April, 2014; 6,381 passengers alighted from or boarded Amtrak trains at the old depot; in April, 2015 and the new depot, the count was 6,048.
Architects: Smith Group and Neumann/Smith Group
Date of opening: December, 2014
Use in 2015: Transportation Center
State of Michigan Registry of Historic Sites: Not listed
National Register of Historic Places; Not listed
Photograph: Ren Farley; August 12, 2015
Description prepared: August, 2015
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