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Detroit’s on track for mass transit

Detroit Free Press map of the proposed line

This sure has been a wonderful week for public transit in Detroit!

On Monday, Mayor Bing held a press conference featuring U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. The Secretary announced the launch of an environmental study for the Woodward Avenue Light Rail Project, a 9.3 mile line running from Hart Plaza to Eight Mile Road.  The environmental study – designed to identify alternatives, costs and issues and expected to take 12 to 18 months—is required to qualify the effort for federal funding.

The Detroit Department of Transportation will be the lead agency on what is now a federal project, in cooperation with the private M1 Rail consortium of investors that is funding construction of the 3.4 mile stretch between Hart Plaza and New Center.  LaHood said the Woodward project’s cooperation with M1 Rail represents the type of cooperation the Obama administration wants to see become more widespread.

“Projects like this cannot be done with just federal dollars,” he said. “This will be a model for the country.”

But that’s not all. Tuesday’s election brought overwhelming support for the SMART millage renewal.

  • Oakland County communities (not all are served) supported SMART at 78.1%
  • Wayne County communities (not all are served) at 73.7%, and
  • All of Macomb County at 71.8%.

Not a single community voted down the millage renewal!  It is clear that residents in our region strongly support transit and are still willing to invest in it, in spite of the economic problems they are facing.

The introduction of light rail along Woodward marks the beginning of a regional transportation plan.  The SMART millage renewal funds another important component.  Work must continue to strengthen the bus system in Detroit and coordinate it with SMART. Then let us see if we can bring opt-out communities into the SMART system so the tri-county is served from border to border.

Let this be the first of many great weeks for public transit in Detroit!