Rail with trail in Royal Oak?

The Detroit Free Press recently ran this article on trail development throughout Metro Detroit.

“Look at this. There’s so much potential,” Royal Oak City Commissioner Jim Rasor said, as he strode Wednesday in Royal Oak beside railroad tracks where he envisions a hiking-biking trail.

Tonight, the Royal Oak City Commission is to discuss Rasor’s hope to turn 8.5 miles of unused land next to the Canadian National Railway tracks — from Royal Oak to Bloomfield Township — into a public trail, tying south Oakland’s bike lanes to north Oakland’s wooded paths.

I recently gave the following public comment on the rail-with-trail concept at Monday’s City Commission meeting:

I encourage the City Commission to explore a rail with trail along the Grand Trunk right-of-way.

Originally this rail line headed northwest out of Royal Oak following Sherman before meeting up with and paralleling Woodward. When the state of Michigan wanted to widen Woodward, they bought land and re-routed the railroad to its current location.

The plan was to build four parallel rail lines, but only two were ever built. The result is there is unused space along the right-of-way which is now a two-track dirt path.

It seems that unused space could accommodate a non-motorized trail.

And wouldn’t this be a great way to bring people into our Downtown?

This would not be the first rail-with-trail. They exist throughout the United States, including ones in Ann Arbor and Traverse City. Nationwide, rails-with-Trails have a perfect safety record. They have a much better safety record than roads and sidewalks.

As someone who lives within eyesight of the railroad and who has had their home appraised, I know how it reduces my property value. Creating a rail-with-trail would increase property values throughout the city, but especially for those of us living close to the rail line.

The response from the commission was mixed. Some wanted to punt this to the county. In fact, Commissioner Drinkwine said the Paint Creek Trail had been spearheaded by the county — it wasn’t. It was spearheaded by grassroots efforts and local governments. The county does not provide leadership on trail projects outside of their own parks.

Nonetheless, I am meeting with Royal Oak city staff this week to provide more information on next steps, especially as it relates to the non-motorized planning process which is expected to begin in February or March.

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12 Responses to “Rail with trail in Royal Oak?”

  1. Dave H Says:

    This would be great if it could run all the way to Pontiac to connect with the Clinton River trail! Hopefully this comes to fruition. Let me know how we can help!

  2. Everett Says:

    This sounds like a great idea long past due. Whenever I want to go for a ride of any considerable length, it’s all streets from 8 Mile until Troy. Happy to help any way I can.

  3. Downtown Says:

    This is an excellent idea! Let us all know how we can help make it happen!

  4. Larry S Says:

    Who owns the right of way for the never built commuter lines? Grand Trunk or the government?

  5. Todd Scott Says:

    According to the attached article, the state bought the land and it was to be turned over to the railroad after 15 years of payments. We’re looking into this further.

  6. Tammis Says:

    I have taken a couple of rides down the tracks and it is great, it feels like you have stepped into the country. I think it would be great to have a bike/walking trail and a local communter train. Let me know if you are creating a group to help establish the trail.

  7. Joe in R.O. Says:

    Why not use these tracks for commuter rail lines? Or even to expand the proposed light rail line now in the works in Detroit. Sure, rail to trail has been a great boon to many areas, but this part of Oakland County is densely populated and needs mass transit that works. Bike riding is really only a seasonal activity in Michigan, but mass transit is a year-round transportation solution.

  8. Todd Scott Says:


    The proposed Rail-with-Trail would not remove any tracks or affect the current (and likely future) freight and passenger rail service. The proposed trail would be located on a currently unused portion of the rail property.

  9. Tammis Says:

    Has anyone gotten busted for bike riding the RR tracks?

  10. Todd Scott Says:

    I know a couple people have been issued warnings from the Grand Trunk police for running on the two-track next to the rail lines.

  11. Alex Stchekine Says:

    I can get from Royal Oak to Birmingham in 15 minutes or less via the two track. Chased by the police once, I escaped at the old stop north of 12 mile and never got caught. Watch out for the Hobo jungle north of 11 mile!

  12. Ben Says:

    Howdy, we’ve had minor success in raising awareness of this concept to the county. We also have/had the Ralph C Wilson foundation ready to fund a feasibility study, however the county hasn’t made any progress. Please reach out to me for the latest plus some names and phone numbers for people that can help. https://m.facebook.com/RoyalOakGrandTrunkPath/?ref=m_notif&notif_t=page_wall

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