Monday, March 10, 2014

Detroit M1 Rail groundbreaking looms

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Supporters of Detroit's public-private partnership advancing a $140 million initial streetcar line say construction will likely begin this spring.

The three-mile project, currently dubbed M1 Rail (or, often, M-1 Rail), will also be rebranded with a new name, possibly involving naming rights.

"I think it's absolutely just the first portion of a regional transit network. I think this really gives us the foundational link people are going to build on," Matt Cullen, CEO of M-1 Rail, told local media.

A plan from the metropolitan area's new Regional Transit Authority, itself virtually mandated by federal officials in order for the area to qualify for any federal transit funding, was to ask voters for a fee or tax to pay for a larger, more cohesive public transit plan. But the vote has been delayed until at least 2016, in part to allow the streetcar line to demonstrate its utility to the public.

"I hope that we can move beyond this first phase," said Harriet Saperstein, chairperson of the nonprofit civic group Woodward Avenue Action Association. "The downtown portion is important, but it's only one part of the public transportation system we need all along Woodward Avenue."

Last fall Detroit awarded a contract to Parsons Brinckerhoff for design, review, and construction quality assurance services for the project along Woodward Avenue.

Bids for rolling stock were due to be submitted Oct. 21, 2013, but a decision on a winning supplier has not been made public.