Transportation
6:42 pm
Fri January 6, 2012

Hope still alive for Detroit light rail project

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.

They suggested federal transportation funds would be better spent on a regional bus rapid transit system.

But M-1 backers, including major influential business figures who had pledged private funds for the project, pushed back. And apparently there’s a chance the project could be revived.

All the major players met again in Detroit Friday. Congressman Hansen Clarke was there, “And we agreed that we would consider validating the feasibility of the light rail project within 90 days,” Clarke says.

It’s unclear exactly who will decide what would make the rail project “feasible,” and based on what criteria. But the idea is to merge the rail line and the proposed rapid bus project into a larger transit system.

Governor Snyder says regional transit is crucial for southeast Michigan and for the state, adding:

“It’s about working well together, and that’s what this meeting was about today. It was an opportunity to talk about how we need a regional transportation authority, that includes the rapid bus system. And as part of that, M-1 can be an important sub-component.”

But it’s not yet clear whether state and regional leaders can put together a regional transit authority to fund and operate any transit system. Such a system would be created through state legislation, and about two-dozen similar efforts have failed in the past.