July 1, 2014 at 11:15 am

U.S. reviewing $12.2M grant request for M-1 Rail project

M-1 Rail officials say they estimate it will cost around $5.2 million annually to operate the line, which will include 20 stations at 12 locations. (M-1 Rail)

Washington — Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said the department is reviewing Detroit’s request for an additional $12.2 million for the planned 3.3 mile M-1 Rail streetcar project, declining to offer any assessment on the grant’s chances of success.

In May, six Michigan members of Congress wrote Foxx along with top White House aides in support of the city of Detroit’s request for a new award for the $137 million project that had a bigger deficit than was previously disclosed.

Foxx noted that the Obama administration approved $25 million for the project in January 2013.

“We’ve put $25 million into it. We’re heavily invested in Detroit, and we care about what happens there so we’ll have to see (what happens with the grant request),” Foxx told The Detroit News in a brief interview Tuesday.

Michigan members of Congress had told Foxx in May that said a failure to receive the additional grant could result in the M-1 project being “delayed indefinitely.”

But M-1 announced it will proceed with the project and break ground on July 28. CEO Matt Cullen said if the project fails to get the additional federal funds, M-1 will take other steps, including potentially revising the project to reduce costs. He said the project’s future would not be impacted by a failure to receive the funds and noted the board voted in early June to move forward with the project.

Cullen said M-1 hopes to learn in September about the status of the grant request from the TIGER program, which stands for Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery. It is a discretionary grant program enabling the transportation department “to invest in road, rail, transit and port projects that promise to achieve critical national objectives,” according to its website.

“We said to Secretary Foxx, ‘Look, we need some help,’ ” Cullen said in an interview last month, emphasizing it would be extremely difficult to go out and raise additional operating funds.

The M-1 Rail streetcar project is expected to be completed by late 2016 and will travel north and south on both sides of Woodward Avenue for 3.3 miles between Larned Street and W. Grand Blvd.

DShepardson@detroitnews.com