GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) – A new Amtrak station in downtown Grand Rapids will soon provide passengers a direct route to Chicago via rail.

The Michigan Department of Transportation says the first Chicago-bound train is set to leave Vernon J. Ehlers Amtrak Station on Monday morning. It will be celebrated with a grand opening ceremony that’s open to the public and will be held a couple of hours after the train departs. Retiring U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell and officials from several transportation agencies are expected to attend.

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“This beautiful Amtrak station kind of creates a new `Union Station’ for Grand Rapids,” said Lynn Afendoulis, a state transportation commissioner from the Michigan Department of Transportation.

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The station’s construction had been hampered by delays since a 2011 groundbreaking, The Grand Rapids Press ( ) reported. A property dispute with CSX Corp., track signaling discussions between MDOT and CSX and the relocation of a city-owned sewer line caused holdups throughout the process.

The $6.1 million station is named after the former West Michigan congressman. It was funded by a $4.6 million grant from the Department of Transportation and a $1.5 million match in other federal, state and local funds.

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