February 18, 2014 at 1:52 pm

Penske: M-1 Rail 'on the right track'

The rail will serve 6,000 riders a day initially and eventually grow to 10,000. (Rendering courtesy of M-1 Light Rail)

Detroit — The long-awaited M-1 Rail streetcar project gets under way in Detroit this spring, bringing with it economic development and hundreds of job opportunities for Detroit, organizers say.

M-1 Board Chairman Roger Penske and CEO Matt Cullen outlined the “unprecedented project” Tuesday during the City Council’s formal session.

Penske says the project is the result of a partnership between the city, state Department of Transportation and a “deep commitment” from the private sector and the community.

“It’s hard to believe that some seven years ago we came and talked with the City Council about this project. We’ve gone through a lot of ups and downs but think we are on the right track,” Penske told the council. “M-1 is obviously a very important part of the city as we go forward. It’s an unprecedented public-private partnership to build the rail system.”

Annual expenditures for the project will be approximately $140 million, plus $5 million in operating costs, Penske said.

The rail will serve 6,000 riders a day initially and eventually grow to 10,000. The trains will have 11 stops connecting the city’s downtown, Midtown, New Center and the Amtrak Station. Trains will run every seven to 10 minutes to the largest job centers, visitor destinations, medical facilities and educational institutions, he said.

The rail is expected to have about 1.8 million riders annually, when it starts service in 2016, officials have said.

Cullen said the construction phase of the project will create about 700 temporary jobs and will later result in 45 permanent positions for Detroit Department of Transportation workers.

The project was formerly absorbed into a bigger, $500 million light rail project to Eight Mile, which was discontinued due to financial issues. But the M-1 Rail stayed on track, Penske said, and moved forward in January 2013, with a $25 million U.S. Department of Transportation grant.

“The purpose is high-quality, reliable transit for people who live, work and visit downtown Detroit,” he said. “It will be a catalyst for economic development and urban renewal.”

Outreach efforts and minimized road closures will be conducted to reduce the impact on local businesses, Cullen said.

“In general, based on hundreds of community outreach meetings, people get it,” he said. “They are willing to deal with a couple weeks of inconvenience...in return for the economic activity and stimulus that’s going to be coming.”

The system is in the process of identifying the streetcar vendor. The line will eventually be donated to the Regional Transit Authority, officials said.

In December, the M-1 began utility relocation work along Woodward in Detroit. It began relocating a catch basin at the southwest corner of the median at Congress Street and Woodward.

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