After decades of failure to move anywhere on a modernized public transit system, metro Detroit this morning won federal backing -- and crucial cash -- for a streetcar system on Woodward Avenue that supporters say will boost the rebirth of downtown and Midtown and lay groundwork for even more rail options in the coming years.
Today’s announcement by U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood that the federal government is awarding $25 million to the $140-million M-1 rail project -- a 3-mile streetcar line between downtown and New Center -- culminates a 40-year effort to bring Detroit on par with other big and medium-sized cities that are building light rail and streetcar systems for economic growth and to create transportation options other than the automobile for walkable, vital neighborhoods and downtown cores.
The largely private-sector M-1 Rail plan had backing from some of Detroit’s wealthiest corporate leaders and its civic and philanthropic sectors; they raised $100 million for the project. LaHood said that support was crucial to the Obama administration’s decision to back the project.
"What I have seen happen in Detroit is a transformation," LaHood told a gathering of top civic and political officials this morning at Wayne State University, which is on the streetcar line’s route and a financial backer of the project. “This is a day of celebration for this city.” ................(more)