Friday, January 18, 2013

Feds (again) fund Detroil M-1 rail project

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Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood on Friday announced Detroit's M-1 Rail project will receive $25 million from the federal government. The planned streetcar line, at present set to run 3.3 miles, has a projected cost of $137 million.

"This is going to be in the history books what we're announcing," LaHood said Friday morning at Wayne State University in Detroit, accompanied by Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and Detroit Mayor Dave Bing. "No other city in America had business leaders come together and raise $100 million," he said, referring to the significant backing of the project by metropolitan area private-sector interests, who have generated $100 million.

LaHood also noted that $6.5 million in Federal Transit Administration planning funds will help Michigan develop Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) network to expand transit options, connecting downtown Detroit with its suburbs and key destinations in the region.

The secretary also noted Gov. Snyder has signed into law legislation creating a Regional Transportation Authority, something FTA and other federal officials had strongly urged as a prerequisite to federal funding opportunities for public transit.

In early 2013, U.S. DOT awarded $25 million for the M-1 plan as part of a 9.3-mile, $500 million project. But the grant was redirected to a BRT plan in December 2011, and the M-1 rail project was scaled back.

At press time it was unclear if the funds awarded Friday is a reallocation once more of the existing amount, or funding from a different source. LaHood on Monday noted that the M-1 advocates have raised $100 million in funding from private sector sources.

The streetcar line is expected to include 11 stations, serving Campus Martius, Comerica Park (home to Major League Baseball's Detroit Tigers), the Detroit Medical Center area, and Wayne State University. Planned frequency is every seven minutes during peak periods, with 12-minute frequencies off-peak.

"The M-1 Rail project will truly be a catalyst for bringing new jobs, employers, retailers, and attractions into downtown, Midtown, and the New Center area along Woodward Avenue," Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff said.

Private-sector backers of the project include the Kresge Foundation, the Penske Corp., and Quicken Loans, among others.