M-1 Rail construction comes alive, Duggan calls for expansion

Doubt clouded the prospects of bringing streetcars back to Detroit for years. Starting yesterday, however, work crews are actively erasing that doubt as they start construction on the M-1 Rail project in Detroit's central business district.

M-1 Rail is leveraging $140 million in both public and private money to build a streetcar line along Woodward Avenue between Larned Street downtown and Grand Boulevard in New Center. The 3.3-mile-long line will have a dozen stops when it opens in the fall of 2016. The build out of the line between Larned Street and Adams Street is scheduled for the next 120 days.

M-1 Rail will be the first streetcar to operate in Detroit since 1956 when the city uprooted the last of its light rail lines in favor of bus system. Proponents of the streetcar line (a conglomeration of local business executives, elected officials, and foundation leaders) claim it will streamline mass transit along Woodward Avenue, "Michigan’s Main Street," and accelerate economic development along the lower Woodward corridor. M-1 Rail is projecting that the streetcar will catalyze 10,000 new housing units and more than $3 billion in economic development along its route, attracting thousands of new residents and jobs to the Motor City in the process.

"We are seeing a time in our country where people want to move back to urban areas," says Mayor Mike Duggan. "They want to be connected."

M-1 Rail is a key piece of Detroit’s formula for capitalizing on that trend, yet the project's fate was uncertain when former Detroit Mayor Dave Bing declared the proposed Woodward Light Rail line between 8 Mile Road and Jefferson Avenue dead just a few years ago. But the M-1 Rail group was resolute and brought the project back from the dead, scrapping the longer configuration favored by the Bing administration and returning to the group's original proposal of a streetcar connecting downtown Detroit, Midtown, and New Center.

While M-1 Rail leaders remain focused on the greater downtown portion of the line, Mayor Duggan reignited the idea of extending the streetcar further up Woodward during the ground breaking press conference.

"Ultimately, we want to build this rail to 8 Mile and then to Pontiac," Duggan says.

Source: M-1 Rail, and Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan
Writer: Jon Zemke

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