West Oakland County’s “Missing Link” Trail

It’s one very popular question: When is the West Bloomfield trail going to continue west and connect with the Huron Valley Trail. Soon we may have an answer.

But first, why is there an 8 mile missing link between these two existing trails? Unlike the other surrounding railroad segments, this one was never abandoned. In fact the dinner train (Coe Railroad) was running on this track until recently. That train has now stopped and the railroad property is being abandoned and sold.

West Bloomfield’s portion (shown in green on the map below) will be available first since there are no existing rail customers along the tracks. West Bloomfield is pursuing grants to acquire the land and extend their trail west to Haggerty Road.

The other railroad property (shown in blue) did have some rail customers, so the abandonment process will take longer. still communities along the way are looking at possibly purchasing the property for a trail. We encourage them to make that purchase to help complete the Michigan Airline trail from Lake St. Clair to Lake Michigan. (“Michigan Airline” was the name of the rail line which this trail uses to cross the state.)

The Spinal Column recently ran an article with additional details: Communities may buy Coe Railroad for trails.

Lastly, this missing link would also connect with the proposed I-275 pathway extension along M-5.  We’ve also advocated for trails along Martin Road to connect with Oakland Park and the Lakes Community Trail.


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21 Responses to “West Oakland County’s “Missing Link” Trail”

  1. Chris Says:

    Wow! This is great news. Although I’m never one to celebrate the closing a railroad, in this case this section was not going to have any future transit since the rest of it is already rail-trail. When the Pontiac section is completed, this will take one all the way from Island Lake to the Paint Creek and Macomb Orchard Trails!

    Todd, be sure to take your purple highlighter and extend it west to the Island Lake Connector, and also south to South Lyon for the Huron Valley Trail.

    Also, on the eastern end of the purple line, one does not have to cut down to Maple (boring!) Stay on the unpaved rail-trail and eventually it becomes “singletrack railtrail.” There’s a narrow section where apparently some lazy engineer only removed every other railroad tie, creating perfectly-spaced waves of bumps. The trail ends in a parking lot at Wixom Rd. The dinner train tracks begin across the street. I love this section of trail so much the TreeFarmers have affectionately dubbed it “The Chris F Memorial Railway.” 🙂

  2. Todd Scott Says:

    Chris, I am looking at how to best put this information on a Google Map. This was a test and I think it looks and works well. My long term goal would be to have a region-wide map with this information…

    As for the rail-line east of Old Plank Road, only the beginning portion is owned by the DNR. The remaining section to that parking lot is not publicly owned. I do not know if this potential trail extension would address this missing portion.

    The primary reason the trail drops to Maple Road is to connect with Lyon Oaks.

  3. Jon Heft Says:

    I believe you guys are referring to how the “trail” drops down to Pontiac Trail (not Maple). I’m all for utilizing the old railroad bed too…..I plan on investigating who owns the property.

  4. Todd Scott Says:

    Yes, you’re right, Jon. I meant Pontiac Trail. I’d be curious to know what you learn.

  5. Dave Cox Says:

    While I feel bad for the Dinner Train going under, and always thought it was a cool little feature of Walled Lake, I am excited to get these rail trails hooked together. I did notice in the Spinal Column article that it mentioned something about a two year waiting period. Is this really the case? It will be torture knowing we are SO close to being able to ride this trail and have to wait a couple more years for it!!

    Crossing M5 seems difficult, but in looking at satellite maps it almost looks like they could take the trail south from the rail corridor along M5 to Maple Road and just put a crossing at the traffic light, and then bring it back north to the rail corridor. Would be cheaper than a bridge!

  6. Todd Scott Says:

    Hey Dave. The two year waiting period is for the western piece of the missing trail. There is an involved process whenever rail lines are abandoned. Other railroads get first crack at buying them, which is why the dinner train got this piece of rail line to begin with. If no railroad buys it then MDOT and the DNR get the next chance before it’s available for public sale. There’s also a delay to allow existing rail customers to switch to new ways of getting their supplies without the train.

    Of course there’s also a delay between applying for grant money and getting it, so this 2-year delay is one of many delays we can expect. That’s just the nature of rails-to-trails conversions.

    As for the crossing, we have mentioned the need for a bridge to MDOT. It’s unlikely due to the expense so your scenario is much more likely. Besides, you may recall the dinner trail sued MDOT for a bridge crossing over M-5. They obviously lost.

    And as I mentioned, we’re looking at an I-275 bike path extension along M-5 to Pontiac Trail. That would allow access to crossings at Maple and Pontiac Trail.

  7. Dave Cox Says:

    Thanks for the info Todd! Do you know if there is anything that locals can do to help with this project?

  8. Todd Scott Says:

    I’m not sure about the western portion, but I’ll ask. As for the West Bloomfield portion, I’m sure they would love some letters supporting their grant application. I will post a sample letter on this web site soon with the details.

  9. Chris Says:

    D’oh! That was me who started confusing Maple with Pontiac Trail. Interesting about MDOT denying a bridge for the dinner train. Didn’t they realize it would be useful for us recreational trails users eventually? 🙂 (They probably did, and that’s why they blocked it!) >:(

    For more OC RR fun, check out:

  10. Todd Scott Says:

    MDOT only denied paying for a bridge that carried one train twice per day at 5 MPH. 🙂

  11. Todd Scott Says:

    UPDATE: Progress is being made at this time and there’s no current need for any grassroots push. If that changes, we’ll let everyone know.

  12. Extending the I-275 Bike Path North | m-bike.org Says:

    […] would intersect the old Coe Railroad, which should hopefully become Oakland Counties next big rails to trails conversion.  It would also intersect 13 Mile and 14 Mile Roads — both popular east-west road bike […]

  13. The Erie Hiker » MDOT Plans for I-275 Bikeway Northern Extension Says:

    […] would intersect the old Coe Railroad, which should hopefully become Oakland Counties next big rails to trails conversion.  It would also intersect 13 Mile and 14 Mile Roads — both popular east-west road bike […]

  14. Chris Says:

    Update: http://www.spinalcolumnonline.com/Articles-i-2008-10-01-56160.113117_Owner_to_relocate_dinner_train_after_years_in_Walled_Lake.html
    Great job, Todd and Nancy!

  15. Chris Says:

    BTW, looking at the OC RR map I linked above, I didn’t realize there’s a possibility of connecting the Lakelands trail in Pinckney/Hamburg to South Lyon (see Livingston Co. map), which would be awesome if the ROW is still intact. (I guess this was part of the Mich. Air Line and would be part of the whole South Haven/Lake Michigan to St. Clair trail.)

    Plus, it looks like there is another abandoned RR connecting Ann Arbor to South Lyon, labeled TAA&W, which could add Ann Arbor to the epic mix. (Not sure if this ROW exists either, time to do some explorin’!)

  16. Todd Scott Says:

    Chris, That first rail line ends in South Lyon at Dixboro between 9 and 10 Mile Roads. You can still follow the rail line use the aerial view. However, large segments of it are now subdivisions. By the way, Dixboro is the county line.

  17. Chris Says:

    I see 🙁 Still, it looks like one could route around the encroached subdivisions, and still make good use of the long stretches where the ROW seems to be intact and there are still bridges over the streams and rivers, and connect to the current trail in South Lyon that ends at Dixboro Rd.

    I now also see the TAA&W is not quite where I thought it was, and definitely is long gone (doesn’t even appear on GMaps Map view as an RR.) It looks like it probably followed/paralleled Nixon Rd/Pontiac Trail all the way to South Lyon. (Although maybe it’s the railbed of the trail that goes from the park between 8 and 9 Mile Rds just east of Dixboro?) Oh well. We’ll just have to take our bikes on the WALLY commuter train from Howell, Brighton/Chilson, or Whitmore Lake down to Ann Arbor… 🙂

  18. Fred Says:

    There are other missing links in the Airline Trail, most notably in Green Oak Twp. A section of the Airline corridor has gone into private ownership west of Dixboro Rd. Back in ’03 or ’04 there was a group in Green Oak pursuing an alternate trail corridor utilizing roadways and other routes from Dixboro Rd. across US-23 and on to Hamburg, for a connection to the Lakelands Trail. I’ve not seen any recent efforts, but certainly with the potential of the COE Railroad becoming a completed link of the Airline Rail corridor, renewed efforts in Green Oak are possible

  19. Todd Scott Says:

    I just heard about a potential major set back on the purchase of the West Bloomfield trail portion. I’ll post more as it becomes confirmed. It’s never easy…

  20. Trust Fund Grants for Metro Detroit | m-bike.org Says:

    […] Michigan Air-Line Railway (West Bloomfield), $1,452,500. This project will acquire approximately 17 acres, or 2.5 miles, of railway corridor that connects the existing West Bloomfield trail west to Haggery Road.  This is great news for a trail project we discussed earlier. […]

  21. Michigan Air Line Trail in the News | m-bike.org Says:

    […] we’ve mentioned earlier, this would be a hugely critical and popular trail connection.  We also noted last month that West Bloomfield was recommended to receive grant money to purchase […]

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