July 1, 2014 -Well, you have heard the old saying, “All’s well that ends well.” That may be what the leaders of the M-1 Streetcar project were saying at the end of last week. The week began with a story that they were short of cash, yet again, citing a letter asking for additional funding from the USDOT TIGER program. Requests for TIGER funding aren’t normally singled out by the press – I have signed many letters supporting TIGER funding on behalf of local government projects. Obviously, the press has been following this project due to the prominent people involved. The week ended with the announcement that Detroit City Council had approved contracts and the project would begin construction in late July – and Woodward would be closed from Grand Circus Park to Campus Martius for 120 days!
It has been a long road for M-1 and I am very happy for them and even happier for all of us. It truly is the beginning of building the backbone of a regional transit system. The M-1 will connect to the Chicago-Pontiac rail line from day one. It will also connect to the Woodward bus rapid transit (BRT) and Ann Arbor-Detroit Commuter Rail line if voters agree to increase funding for transit some day. With these lines in place, along with potential new BRT lines on Gratiot and M-59, the rest of the large and small bus network can be enhanced and people will be able to make trips by transit that they can only dream of today.
Image: Artist's rendering courtesy of M-1 Rail
M-1 made some mistakes along the way. It is easy to do when you are the first major transit capital project in the region in over 30 years. The first one is always the hardest, but they have now identified a path that will make it easier for the next projects to follow, both by identifying the process, but also by providing needed match for connecting projects.
The construction will be inconvenient for a while, but I can’t wait to ride M-1. Let the new era begin!
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