The journey of bringing a streetcar line back to Woodward Avenue in Detroit bears more resemblance to a roller coaster than a tram in recent years. But feel free to breathe a sigh of relief, Detroit. The train is about to pull into the station. Bet on it.
Friday's press conference announcing the final piece of funding needed for the M-1 Rail
project, connecting Jefferson Avenue to Grand Boulevard, offered a lot of optimism and back slapping.
The U.S. Secretary of Transportation is giving $25 million in federal funds for the M-1 Rail and another $6 million to get the newly created regional transit authority off the ground. However, a few other key people in the audience of Friday's press conference were equally confident about the project.
M-1 Rail calls for creating a 3.4-mile-long streetcar line mostly along the outer lanes of Woodward Avenue. It will have 11 stops: at Congress Street, the northern tip of Campus Martius, the southern tip of Grand Circus Park, the Fox Theatre, Sibley Street, Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, Canfield Street, Warren Avenue, Ferry Street, the Amtrak train station in New Center and Grand Boulevard. More than $100 million for the project has been raised from private, philanthropic and government sources.
Matt Cullen, CEO of M-1 Rail, says the creation of the regional transit authority was the last major hurdle for giving the green light to the project. He expects the final engineering work and construction bidding to be done in the first half of this year. Construction will begin late this summer and take two years to complete.
Megan Owens, executive director of the transit-advocate non-profit Transportation Riders United
, echoes Cullen's words and optimism. She adds that drills for the project will go into the ground before shovels. "They're going to start boring to find out of there is anything in the way in the ground," Owens says.
She adds that the $25 million is the last foreseeable major hurdle for the project. M-1 Rail has funding for both construction and operation for the next several years. It won't be impacted by the regional transit authority's efforts to establish a funding source. That means that even though M-1 Rail and the regional transit authority were joined at the hip to land the federal funding, they will independently establish themselves in the next few years. The plan is to bring the two back together when they become established.
"The hope is in 7-10 years the RTA (regional transit authority) will take over," Owens says.
Source: Matt Cullen, CEO of M-1 Rail and Megan Owens, executive director of Transportation Riders United
Writer: Jon Zemke
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