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Ceremony planned this morning for the M-1 rail project

Sep 15, 2014

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.

Map of the M-1 route in Detroit.
Credit M-1 Rail

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.

The ceremony marked another infusion of cash from the federal government. In addition to earlier grants, the U.S. DOT recently gave another $12.2 million to complete the project.

The Detroit News reports on recent struggle to get the $138 million project funded:

In April, the city of Detroit applied for another $12.2 million for the $136 million project — after receiving $25 million in January 2013 from the U.S. Transportation Department. Detroit warned the project could be in jeopardy without additional federal funding, but M-1 decided to move ahead this summer before it got a federal decision — saying it couldn’t afford to lose another construction season and federal tax credits. On Wednesday, the first chunk of the estimated $8 million in New Market Tax Credits closed, M-1 spokesman James Canning said.

Documents obtained by The Detroit News show M-1 lost $4.5 million in planned donations and about $8 million in the estimated value of New Market Tax Credits but is in talks with new donors for at least $6 million in additional donations — and its three major donors. The Kresge Foundation, Quicken Loans and Penske Corp. have all agreed to boost their contributions to help close the funding gap.

But after 7 years of such fits and starts, M-1 backers say this is the final piece of the puzzle.

Detroit businessman and racing magnate Roger Penske, one of the project's leading private backers and funders, said M-1 is the result of "unprecedented" public-private sector collaboration. 

Penske said this latest grant pushes it "over the top"--and he believes this rail project will do the same for Detroit's economic rebirth.

“The commercial value, the neighborhoods that grow from a project like this," Penske said. "We're on time, we’re on target, we’ll be on that train in 2016.”