Imagine being able to hop on a train after a Detroit Tigers game and ride to your favorite restaurant in Midtown Detroit. Or you have spent a great night at the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and want to take the rail back to your car parked at the State Fairgrounds. Today, those dreams have taken a big step toward becoming a reality.
US Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced his department will fund the environmental impact study needed to unlock federal dollars needed for the M1 Rail to move forward. However, instead of doing the study on the 3.4 miles initially proposed by the business and philanthropic communities, the study will cover 9.3 miles from downtown Detroit to the State Fairgrounds.
The overriding theme of the press conference, though, was not transportation, but how this effort is an economic development tool.
“Land use around these stops that will change the way the city in ways we can only imagine, just as it has in every other community in America where transportation has taken root,” envisioned Rip Rapson, President and CEO of the Kresge Foundation.
LaHood echoed these sentiments, adding that the public/private partnership instrumental in launching this light rail effort could become a model for the rest of the nation. In fact, funding for the study was granted through the New Starts program, the Federal Transit Administration’s discretionary grant program designed to support locally planned, implemented and operated major transit capital investments.
“I want to thank the foundations. Projects like this cannot be done just with public dollars,” asserted Secretary LaHood.
Light rail running down Woodward is still several years away, with the study alone taking up to 18 months to complete,. The complete construction cost of the project is not yet known and funding is not yet secured for construction. Construction is expected to be completed in two phases, with phase one running from downtown to West Grand Boulevard and phase two extending to the state fairgrounds. Although there is no official word on future plans for the region, this is anticipated to be a key spoke in a larger regional transit system.
Public comment on the proposed Woodward Light Rail line is welcomed. The first two public hearings will be on August 14th at the Considine Little Rock Family Life Center located at 8094 Woodward in Detroit. Session one is from 11 am until 1 pm. Session two is slated for 5 pm until 7 pm that day as well.
“There is a lot of work between now and then (opening the rail line) to make it a reality,” said Mayor Dave Bing. “But with the combined efforts of the city, the federal government, the state government and the private sector, light rail will become a reality in Detroit.”