Detroit light rail

Preparing track for the M-1 rail project in Detroit.
M-1 Rail / Facebook

Dignitaries including Michigan Gov. Snyder, Senators Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow, Representatives John Dingell and John Conyers, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, and business leaders Roger Penske and Dan Gilbert were on hand for a "track signing" ceremony this morning in Detroit.

The M-1 rail project is streetcar line planned for a 3.3. mile stretch along Woodward Ave. in Detroit. The project has received more than $35 million in federal funds, but the majority of its financing comes from private backers.

M-1 Rail Detroit

DETROIT – Detroit's light passenger rail project is moving one step closer to reality with a request for contractors to work on the $140 million mass transit system.

The company serving as construction manager on the 3.1-mile M-1 Rail project announced Sunday night that it's seeking proposals from contractors on the project for such services as paving, salvage, traffic signals, water main work and landscaping.

Below-ground work starts on Detroit light rail

Dec 21, 2013
M-1 Rail Detroit

DETROIT (AP) - Below-ground utility relocation is underway on a 3.3-mile light rail system that will run from Detroit's riverfront to the city's New Center area.

Officials for the M-1 Rail say crews are moving or replacing water catch basins, storm manholes and water main gate valves along Woodward Avenue.

The work is the initial step toward full construction activities on the streetcar system and is not expected to prevent customer access to local businesses.

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In Lansing this week, a group hopes to lay the course for developing Michigan's railroads.

There is a growing demand for passenger and freight rail transportation. But the question is how to increase capacity on the rail lines that crisscross Michigan.

Tuesday’s conference at Lansing Community College will try to answer that capacity question.

Pasi Lautala is an engineering professor at Michigan Technological University and the director of the MTU Rail Transportation Program.   He’s also one of the co-chairs of the conference.

M-1 Rail Detroit

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood met with Michigan officials today to discuss the development of a regional transit authority to oversee a light rail line in Detroit.

More money for Michigan transportation projects?
user theed17 / wikimedia commons

The U.S. Department of Transportation announced today it will make available $473 million in road funds to states with pending transportation projects.

In a press release, U.S. Department of Transportation said the money comes from unspent earmarks from FY 2003-2006.

Effective today, state departments of transportation will have the ability to use their unspent earmarked highway funds, some of which are nearly 10 years old, on any eligible highway, transit, passenger rail, or port project.

The Detroit News reports Michigan has $15.8 million in 28 projects that hasn't been spent that the state can redirect.

"It will be up to Michigan how to decide to spend their money," LaHood said.

State departments of transportation will have the ability to use their unspent earmarked highway money, some of which is nearly 10 years old, on any eligible highway, transit, passenger rail, or port project.

The Obama Administration wants the money spent soon. To use the funds, states must identify projects by October 1, and must obligate them by December 31, 2012.

A proposed light rail project on Detroit’s Woodward Avenue won’t be getting millions in federal transit dollars—for now.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood awarded the so-called M-1 project a $25 million TIGER grant in 2010. But late last year, LaHood, Governor Snyder, and Detroit Mayor Dave Bing decided that money would be better spent on a regional rapid bus system.

Since then, M-1’s private backers—who have pledged millions toward the 3.4-mile span connecting downtown Detroit and the New Center area—have rallied to re-gain government support for the project.

m-1rail.com

Elected leaders and private backers of the proposed Woodward Avenue light rail line met with federal transit officials in Detroit Monday.

They left that meeting with yet another 60-day deadline to try and secure federal funding.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood will visit Detroit today. He’ll meet with a wide-ranging group of government officials and business leaders on the future of light rail transit in the city. The M-1 project on the main thoroughfare of Woodward Avenue could eventually connect with a regional system.

Governor Rick Snyder plans to attend. He says light rail is part of a strategy to make Michigan’s largest city as attractive to entrepreneurs and young people as Chicago or Boston.

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Back in December, it seemed a 3-mile light rail project in Detroit along Woodward Avenue was put on the scrap heap when U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood raised doubts that Detroit could pay the operating costs for the proposed line.

In discussions, Detroit Mayor Bing, Gov. Snyder, and LaHood opted for a rapid bus system instead.

But as Michigan Radio's Sarah Cwiek has been reporting, private investors who were backing the light rail project pushed back on the bus idea.

Now the Detroit Free Press reports the M-1 Rail Group says they'll put up the money to run the system for the first 10 years.

The M-1 Rail Group outlined the details in a report it has sent to the federal government. The group of private investors and philanthropic groups behind the effort said they would commit to paying the estimated $5.1 million annual cost of operating the Woodward rail line through 2025.

After the first ten years, the group says they would donate the system "to the appropriate agency, such as a regional transit authority that Gov. Rick Snyder and the Legislature are working to create for southeast Michigan..."

Transit advocates in Detroit are happy that a proposal for light rail along Woodward Avenue is still alive.

Federal, state, and city officials had nixed the plan late last year in favor of a Bus Rapid Transit system.

But after pushback from the line’s private backers, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood gave them a deadline to put forth a “feasible” plan.

This week, LaHood extended that deadline about a month. He also told The Detroit News that he's "still optimistic" about the project.

Megan Owens, director of the transit advocacy group Transportation Riders United, says the current proposal is for a shortened line serving Detroit’s downtown—but that’s ok.

“Light rail, or streetcars, can not only provide a great transit option for getting around the downtown-Midtown-New Center areas--but can also be a great way to boost re-development in those communities,” Owens said.

The extension also gives state lawmakers time to move bills to form a regional transit authority in southeast Michigan.

Such an authority is a key condition for federal transit aid to Metro Detroit.

There’s a chance light rail might still be a part of Detroit’s transportation future.

But backers of a proposed rail line on Woodward Avenue face a deadline to prove they have a viable plan.

In December, federal transportation officials, Governor Snyder and Detroit Mayor Dave Bing decided the M-1 light rail project should be scrapped.

M1 Rail

The on-again-off-again light rail plan in Detroit is now officially "off," according to the Detroit Free Press.

A light-rail system was planned between downtown Detroit and 8 Mile Rd.

The paper reports the $25 million pledged to the project from a federal TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) grant will go toward a bus system instead.

From the Free Press:

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood told Detroit Mayor Dave Bing that doubts that Detroit could pay operating costs over the long term for the light-rail line because of its and the state’s financial problems swayed him against the plan. The decision came despite earlier public support that included LaHood’s 2010 visit to Detroit to award a $25-million grant to get the project moving.

LaHood, President Barack Obama’s top transportation official, met last week with Bing and Snyder, and the sides agreed that the better option is a system of rapid-transit buses operating in dedicated lanes on routes from downtown to and through the suburbs along Gratiot, Woodward and Michigan avenues and along M-59, the officials said.

Private and philanthropic investors had pledged $100 million toward the light rail project. Though some investors had shown signs of wavering.

The Free Press reports the decision to scrap the light-rail plan "outraged Megan Owens, director of the Detroit advocacy group Transportation Riders United." Advocates said the investments made in light-rail line would lead to redevelopment along Woodward Avenue:

 “We’re basically throwing away a $3-billion economic development investment,” Owens said. “I’m outraged Mayor Bing would let this happen on his watch.”

Critics of the project said the light-rail project would be a waste of money and could suffer the same fate as the People Mover in Detroit. That system has been struggling to remain economically viable.

State of Michigan

Michigan will get close $46.7 million for 16 transportation projects across the state. U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in Dearborn today, where he announced the funding.

Governor Rick Snyder says he and Detroit Mayor Dave Bing will also head up a task force to try and break through a decades-old effort to create a regional transportation authority for southeast Michigan. Snyder says he wants to see quick action, "because we have a legacy here of planning too long and not acting enough.”

Right now, separate bus systems serve Detroit and the suburbs. Both systems face major budget troubles. DDOT, the system that serves Detroit, has cut routes, and riders have complained about hours-long waits. Meanwhile, the suburban system, SMART, just announced massive service cuts.

"I am hopeful in a short period of time we will have a solution or more than one option in terms of how we're going to deal with that problem," said Detroit Mayor Dave Bing.

Part of that solution will come in the form of help from the federal government, which has pledged $6 million for the city to purchase new busses. Bing says he's also hoping for concessions from the union that represents the city's bus drivers.

M1 Rail

Detroit is trying to build a new light rail system.

Transit officials from different U.S. cities who have done just that dispensed some advice at Wayne State University Monday.

At one point, Detroit had one of the world’s best light rail systems. Now, it’s trying to rebuild a modest version from scratch.

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This past Monday, Michigan Radio's Sarah Cwiek reported on the growing controversy surrounding Detroit's light rail project. Reports indicated that private backers might pull out of the project. (Kresge Foundation President Rip Rapson told Cwiek  the foundation is committed to the project.)

M1 Rail

Detroit City Council has approved $125 million in bonds to help pay for a light rail system that will stretch from downtown Detroit to the New Center.

The total cost of the project is expected to be $528 million, according to Bill Shea at Detroit Crain's Business.

Council also approved a $25 million TIGER grant from the federal government (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery).

M1 Rail

Plans for a light rail line in Detroit got a boost with a $25 million grant from the federal government.

The money will help with the first phase of the project, which will connect Detroit’s downtown and New Center areas. That 3.5 mile stretch could ultimately extend up Woodward Avenue to the city’s border at Eight Mile Road.

The project is backed by a powerful group of business leaders in the city – including Dan Gilbert, Peter Karmanos, and Roger Penske. They’ve helped pull together about $125 million in private funding. In an unusual arrangement, the federal government agreed to match those private dollars. Normally the city would have to put up the money, but Detroit is broke.

The project is expected to break ground this year.