Pere Marquette

Exactly two decades after the first passenger train departed Grand Rapids, ON August 5, 2004, representatives of Amtrak and the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) joined representatives of a Westrain to celebrate the continuing success of the Grand Rapids-Chicago Pere Marquette (trains 370 & 371).

Susan Heartwell, the first lady of Grand Rapids , was joined by former first lady Judy Helmholt, to reenact the 1984 christening of the train by Helmholt with a bottle of Michigan champagne. Local, state and federal officials also celebrated, including U.S. Senator Carl Levin. Ridership on the train has been breaking records. It was up by more than 22 percent to total 73,392 in the previous Amtrak fiscal year (Oct. 2002-Sept. 2003). Thus far this Amtrak fiscal year (Oct. 2003-June 2004), ridership is up by nearly 13 percent.

“It has become apparent that we cannot simply depend on further construction of roads and highways to meet our increasing transportation needs,” said Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm in a statement presented at the event. “I commend WESTRAIN, Amtrak and MDOT for coordinating this event to remember the history of this important rail line.”

“Over the years, nearly 1 ½ million passengers have boarded the train, traveling over 2 ½ million miles and offering travelers an alternative to the long, often congested, drive to and from Chicago,” said Jim Snell, chairman of WESTRAIN, the community coalition working with Amtrak and MDOT to support and market the service.

“The Pere Marquette has become West Michigan 's Train,” said Snell, Senior Transportation Planner with the Grand Rapids-based Grand Valley Metro Council.

Leading the Amtrak delegation at the event was Brian Rosenwald, Central Division Passenger Services Superintendent. He and several others at the celebration were also there when Pere Marquette service was restored on August 5, 1984 .

Named for Michigan's own Pere Marquette Railroad and called “one of the nation's loveliest short-distance trains” by Passenger Train Journal, Amtrak operates the Pere Marquette daily over tracks owned by CSX Transportation to and from Grand Rapids, Holland, Bangor, St. Joseph-Benton Harbor and New Buffalo, Mich. Service by the Pere Marquette is financed in part by funds made available by MDOT.

As a part of the celebration, Amtrak and MDOT prepared a new brochure and route guide for the Pere Marquette, with the assistance of the Western Michigan Chapter of the Michigan Association of Railroad Passengers. Copies of the brochure are available from WESTRAIN.