Feds to inject $25 million into Detroit light rail project

Jan 11, 2013

You can say one thing about the backers of the M-1 light rail project in Detroit, they're persistent.

The on-again, off-again federal funding of the project is now on-again, according to reports from the Detroit Free Press and the Detroit News.

The Freep reports U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is expected to visit Detroit next week with $25 million for the light rail project along 3.3 miles of Woodward Avenue.

The rail line is proposed between downtown Detroit and New Center.

More from Matt Helms of the Detroit Free Press:

Ray LaHood is expected to be in Detroit for the North American International Auto Show on Monday for industry-related events, but he will return Jan. 18 to award $25 million to the M-1 project, a largely private-sector effort to bring a light-rail line to Woodward after a larger effort, spanning from downtown to 8 Mile, collapsed last year.

Last summer, LaHood listed reasons why the federal government would not back the project.

Chief among them was a lack of a regional transit authority for southeast Michigan.

The state legislature approved the formation of a regional authority in the lame-duck session last month. That legislation pleased LaHood:

...he has told key leaders associated with the M-1 project that he’s pleased with progress metro Detroit is making, particularly with the Legislature’s decision to end decades of stalemate over control and operation of a regional transit system, and is ready to award the funding. That was confirmed today by two people informed of the decision who spoke with the Free Press on condition of not being named because they don’t have the authority to announce the news.

David Shepardson of the The Detroit News has more details on how M-1 system is planned to operate:

The revised M-1 system will have 11 stops and six streetcars over 3.3 miles from downtown to Midtown and run 117 weekday trips each way from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.

A streetcar would travel about 12 mph and take roughly 16 minutes to make a one-way trip. Streetcars would run every 71/2 minutes — from Congress north to Grand Boulevard — at peak times and every 12 minutes at other times.

The system would employ 42 people, accounting for $3.5 million of the $5.1 million in maximum annual costs.

The M-1 project has many donors, including Detroit businessmen Roger Penske and Dan Gilbert. Shepardson writes other donors include "$35 million from the Kresge Foundation, $3 million each from General Motors Co.'s Chevrolet unit and Chrysler Group LLC, a $3 million pledge from Wayne County, and $9 million from the Detroit Development Authority paid over 10 years."

Last spring, the donors said they had enough money to build and run the project for ten years.