Politics
5:23 pm
Mon August 8, 2011

Detroit seeks national advice on light 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.

The first leg is a stretch between downtown Detroit and the city limits at Eight Mile Road along the central Woodward corridor. It’s slated to break ground sometime next year.

Oakland County Congressman Gary Peters says this was a chance for Metro Detroit to learn from other cities. And he says one theme is a regional approach.

“It has to be regional for this to really work. This is a great start to have it go up Woodward to 8 Mile, but it needs to go into Oakland County.”

Federal transit administrator Peter Rogoff told leaders there’s enough demand in Metro Detroit to create the 9th-busiest transit system in the country. But the hitch remains getting different municipalities to agree to a common vision.  

Detroit State Senator Burt Johnson is sponsoring legislation that would build a regional transit authority. He says while the first leg planned for the system will be within Detroit, the region needs to work together from the get-go.

“I think that to go it alone would mean that we would shelter ourselves again, and really set the regional conversation back. And we really need to be about the region moving forward at the same time.”

Johnson’s legislation would pay for the light rail system with local sales taxes.