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— The M-1 Rail project along Woodward Avenue entered a new phase Saturday with the pouring of the first concrete along the tracks between John R and Clifford streets.

Construction workers will pour some 900 cubic yards of concrete around the previously-installed track in a process that should be complete just before the Thanksgiving Day parade along Woodward.

“A project like M-1 Rail is somewhat unique in the construction process and different from what people might see in road construction,” M1-Rail Chief Operating Officer Paul Childs said in a statement issued Friday. “We do significant pre-pour preparation to ensure the rail is properly secured, elevated and aligned before we pour any concrete. That helps assure the streetcars will ride smoothly and quietly up and down the tracks.”

Concrete will continue to be poured along the rest of the line. When closures of intersections are necessary, the work should begin on a Friday and re-open Monday, said Childs.

Construction methods take into account the drastic variation in Michigan’s weather, said Childs. The rail itself will have a grout pad or “rubber boot” around it, which provides vibration dampening and noise reduction, and also protects the steel from water seepage and stray currents emanating from either the streetcar-charging system itself, or from existing municipal utilities feeds.

“The boot assures safety, but also lets the rail expand longitudinally — in response to both heat and cold weather,” said Childs. “Of course that’s important for our Michigan weather, but more importantly, it protects the underground steel assets from water, current, and other environmental factors, and assures safety for rail passengers.”

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.

The first shovels went into the ground on Woodward in late July; crews began welding track in September. The 3.1-mile line from downtown to Midtown is to be completed in late 2016. On Sept. 9, the project was awarded a $12.2 million federal grand to help build a vehicle maintenance facility, improve pedestrian access and include a fiber optic duct bank that will support broadband upgrades to increase Internet access at Wayne State University and other educational institutions.

Workers from local Detroit unions are doing the concrete work, and flaggers are placed at the intersections to assure safety – and that the new concrete isn’t disturbed.

lrazzaq@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2127

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