July 17, 2014 at 1:00 am

M-1 Rail raises $110M, prepares for construction

M-1 President Matt Cullen says the city needs better transit. (Robin Buckson / The Detroit News)

Detroit— The M-1 Rail line will break ground later this month in a project that will shut down parts of Woodward Avenue and two interstate bridges, but is expected to pump $3 billion worth of development in the corridor and jump-start regional mass transportation, organizers said Wednesday.

M-1 officials, prepping the media in anticipation of the July 28 start of the expected two-year construction to build the streetcar line, said they have raised $110 million of private money for the $137 million, 3.3-mile project on Woodward.

Matt Cullen, the president and CEO of M-1 Rail, said he is excited to be bringing the first streetcar line back to Detroit since the 1950s in a corridor that “has tremendous density.”

“We’re probably the only major urban area in the country that does not have any effective form of mass transit,” Cullen said. “And we’re one of the areas, one of the cities in the country that has the most significant need for it.”

Cullen said the streetcar “is a pedestrian enhancement and that it allows you to connect with the city in a very different way.”

Starting around midnight July 28, Woodward between Adams Street and Campus Martius wil be closed for at least 120 days. Construction will happen between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Monday through Friday with some weekend, work, too. Other work will be done in the Midtown and North End of the route with partial lane closures.

The bridges over Interstate 75 and 94 will be rebuilt.

M-1 rail officials will be working with the Michigan Department of Transportation and DTE Energy on the construction, rebuild and underground work on Woodward that will feature new lights and roadway. Construction will take into account business concerns as well as events such as the Thanksgiving Day parade on Woodward.

Paul Childs, the chief operating officer of the project, said it was important for officials to break the construction “down into smaller bits and pieces that people could deal with because frankly it’s massive.”

“It’s a little bit like the I-96 rebuild,” Childs said. “Only we’re not below grade. We’re significant above grade, we’re in a tight urban corridor. We’ve got to totally understand the implications to the residents, visitors and the businesses here, up and down the corridor. And that’s where this turns out to be a massive balancing act.”

M-1 officials said they will receive proposals in the next two weeks from streetcar manufacturers and take another two weeks to make a recommendation for the M-1 board to approve. They believe building the six, 60-foot long cars from scratch will be done in time for the expected fall 2016 kickoff the rail line.

“The process has got to be pretty confidential given the federal aspect of it, but we’re down to two and we should be able to pick it in a couple of weeks,” Cullen said.

Upon completion, the streetcar line will travel up and down Woodward between Larned and West Grand Boulevard, with 20 stations at 12 locations. Organizers say they expect at least 10,000 new housing units to sprout along the corridor.

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