Detroit Light-Rail Project Progresses

Convenient, sustainable transportation is vital for city revitalization and regeneration.  When residents have better transportation, they can more easily access employment opportunities and support local businesses and local economies.  Transportation not only reinvigorates local economies, but also strengthens community and social connections.  One option for sustainable and convenient transportation is a light-rail system.

Detroit has been working to build a light-rail up Woodward Avenue, and recently, the city has come closer to realize this goal.  On June 29th, 2011, the route and stops were revealed as the Federal Transportation Administration and the city of Detroit announced their agreement for the $500 million project.  The route will run close to the curb in the downtown and in the center north of Grand Circus – a compromise between the wishes of businesses and activists.  Once the agreement is signed, the U.S. Secretary of Transportation, Ray LaHood, will award Detroit with $25 million in federal funds, and construction of the light-rail could begin next year.  However, projects funds still seem to be on uncertain grounds, as the commitment of $100 million from M-1 Rail Group comes into question.  The M-1 Rail Group, a coalition of investors, agreed to provide funds for the project if the rail route provided stops at specific locations, but these stops were not included in the route and stop plan presented on June 29th.  Thus, Dan Cullen, the CEO of M-1 Rail, is currently reviewing the recent light-rail agreement and has no comment about whether the group will or will not provide funding.  Carmine Palumbo, of the Southeast Michigan Council of Governors, questions whether the light-rail project can be achieved without the M-1 Rail funding.  Meanwhile, Megan Owens, the director of Transportation Riders United, is optimistic, emphasizing that the rail plan is very good – meeting the needs of both the city and of the local businesses.  Thus, although there are presently a few roadblocks to the realization of this light-rail, Detroit is certainly making significant progress.