Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Detroit M1 light rail construction is delayed

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Detroit has adjusted its effort to join the ranks of U.S. cities with light rail, as construction of the privately funded $120 million LRT line along Woodward Avenue has been pushed back until sometime next year. Construction was to begin by year’s end.

The delay is attributed to the Detroit Department of Transportation’s desire to use the private money as the local match for its own project to extend light rail from New Center to the state fairgrounds at Eight Mile Road, according to Kim Zitny, vice president of Troy, Mich.-based Eisbrenner Public Relations, M1 Rail’s public relations agency.

DDOT’s project, the Detroit Transit Options for Growth study, needs the local match to qualify for federal transit project funding to cover that project’s $371 million cost. Both projects are considered “separate but joint cooperative efforts,” theoretically allowing the $120 million in private funding to be used as a match for either component. Zitny clarified that the projects are not merging and will remain separate efforts.

M1 light rail would stretch 3.4 miles, with 12 stops, connecting the city’s Hart Plaza and New Center area. Private backers of M1 include: Penske Corp. founder Roger Penske, chairman of the M1 project; Peter Karmanos Jr., founder of Detroit-based software maker Compuware Corp.; Mike Ilitch, owner of the Detroit Tigers and Detroit Red Wings and co-founder of Little Caesar Enterprises Inc.; and Quicken Loans/Rock Financial founder Dan Gilbert, the project's co-chairman.

Approximately $180 million, including the $125 million being raised by M1 Rail and $55 million contributed by DDOT, has been earmarked toward the estimated $220 million needed to match a federal grant, city officials say.