QLine gets final pieces of track installed

Leonard N. Fleming
The Detroit News

Detroit — The final M-1 Rail line track was welded together on Friday, paving the way for the testing of the rail line and its expected opening for the QLine streetcar next spring.

The hot molding process as demonstrated to the media on Woodward Avenue and Amsterdam Street in the Midtown area was touted by M-1 officials as the next step to completing the 6.6-mile streetcar system that began 18 months ago.

“This is an exciting time for all of us,” said Paul Childs, the chief operating officer of the M-1 Rail project as he stood just a few feet away from the welding process. “This is the equivalency of topping off a building, only we’re laying down instead of standing up.”

There have been more than 1,000 “thermite” welds up and down the QLine streetcar tracks, the final one coming on the south bound tracks. M-1 officials expect to reopen Woodward Avenue completely in time for the America’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Construction officials will put concrete around the track and then let it sit for up to a week to settle. The Woodward Avenue roadway around the tracks was totally rebuilt to accommodate the streetcar system.

“It’s an exciting day for the city, it’s an exciting day for all the workers,” Childs said. “We all knew we’d get here. And we said a long time ago, it’s a long journey.”

The event comes more than a month after the first completed QLine streetcar was unveiled in September. The line is slated to formally open in 2017, with cars traveling at 35 mph on Woodward along 3.3 miles of one-way track from downtown Detroit to New Center.

M-1 officials said more testing of the track and training of the streetcar operators has to be done. The next two railcars are coming in at the end of this month and just before Christmas to total four cars.

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Twitter: @leonardnfleming