Detroit's M-1 Rail streetcar project said Monday it will buy six streetcars from a Pennsylvania-based manufacturer in late 2016 — and will use off-wire cars.

M-1 RAIL said it will spend $32 million to buy the streetcars from Brookville Equipment Corp. The company provided streetcars for Dallas Area Rapid Transit, a system with similar streetcar technology, and that was a "key factor," M-1 said in the decision. The purchase price includes spare parts and support services.

That decision means service may not start until 2017. M-1 says on its website that the project will be complete and operational by the end of 2016.

M-1 spokesman James Canning said once the cars and track are complete, ridership can begin after some other hurdles are met.

"Once received, operational testing will begin, and once state and federal approvals are received, M-1 RAIL will begin passenger operations," Canning said Monday, declining to be more specific.

The Woodward route will employ off-wire technology, with 60 percent of the line operating on battery power provided by 750-volt rechargeable lithium-ion batteries. The three-piece, articulated cars are expected to be 66 feet long and be able to carry 125 passengers on average.

"Selection of Brookville provides M-1 RAIL with a company that has experience constructing streetcars that best meet this project's technological requirements and timeline, " said Paul Childs, chief operating officer for M-1 RAIL. "We are pleased to reach agreement with Brookville, a streetcar manufacturer that specializes in the advanced off-wire technology that will make our system a leader in this technology."

By not using overhead wires, M-1 will "minimize its impact on the aesthetics of Detroit's iconic Woodward Avenue, and the Penske Technical Center will not have the labyrinth of wires overhead that typify the maintenance and repair sites of other systems," Childs said.

He said the off-wire technology "also enhances safety and enables more efficient maintenance and repair due to safe, but simpler, procedures for technicians."

M-1 said the cars will travel up to the maximum 35 miles per hour speed on Woodward and will flow with traffic and stop for traffic lights and "delivery of the six streetcars will begin in the fourth quarter of 2016."

The $136 million project won a crucial $12.2 million additional federal grant last year to help make the project a reality.

In April 2014, the city of Detroit applied for another $12.2 million for the $136 million project — after receiving $25 million in January 2013 from the U.S. Transportation Department.

The system with 12 stops is expected to have 1.8 million riders in its first year of operation, rising to 3 million by 2035. M-1 has raised $20 million in an operating fund to defray expenses for the first six years — but plans to raise that to $25 million before the first riders use the system, estimating it will need $5.3 million a year to subsidize operating costs initially.

Brookville Equipment is a century old manufacturer that also is the only maker of streetcars to design and manufacture exclusively in the United States, M-1 said.

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