Rail Good News

It's no mystery, really, why the City of Detroit has no discernible public transit system.

Forget buses. Every city has buses. I'm talking about honest-to-goodness mass transit that puts a city on the cutting edge.

Detroit has no such animal, and it's quite simple why that is.

Detroit is the Motor City. We put America on wheels. We love our cars. We don't even like to car pool; you think we're going to espouse mass transit that could harm auto sales?

I've long fantasized about a train that would take you from the foot of Hart Plaza to the tony suburbs of Birmingham and Bloomfield Hills, with dozens of stops in between.

But I knew that "fantasized" was the key word, because anything that would discourage the use of the automobile, read: wear and tear, thus necessitating the purchase of a new car, would be buried as a pie-in-the-sky idea.

That pie is about to fall to Earth.

The first hurdle has been cleared for Detroit to start working on its brand new light rail system that would run along Woodward Avenue. Phase I would begin construction in 2011 and would run from Jefferson to West Grand Boulevard (about 3.4 miles), and Phase II would carry the rail all the way to 8 Mile Road, and would be completed by 2016.

Mayor Bing's Administration says the project could create as many as 10,000 jobs.

The hurdle was the federal government pledging to conduct an environmental impact study required for the plan to move forward.

The project is expected to cost about $450 million. So far, $125 million in private and public funds have been raised to complete the first phase of the project with the hope that the federal government will pick up much of the rest.

A sample of what a light rail train in Detroit might look like

The Woodward Light Rail Project would contain several stops along the way, including Wayne State University, Tech Town, Detroit Medical Center, Campus Martius Park, College for Creative Studies, the State Fairgrounds and the New Center/ Henry Ford Hospital area.

This is very exciting news.

This may seem cosmetic to some, but to be a world-class city, as Detroit claims to want to be, and to be more attractive and competitive when it comes to landing conventions and other business, having light rail in place is a huge step toward that goal.

It separates Detroit from other wannabes.

Not to mention the jobs the project will create, and the bounce back for local businesses.

Mayor Bing said, "If you've visited other cities as I have to see the impact of light rail, you see the development that it generates is equally important to the convenient transportation that it provides."

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, who was in Detroit Friday for President Obama's tours of auto plants and subsequent speeches, said this light rail project will become a "model for the country" given the public and private partnership to raise funds for the project to see that it gets completed.

"Projects like this cannot be done just with public dollars," LaHood told the press. "This will become a model for the country: public-private partnerships, foundations coming together with the state, the city, the entire delegation around the idea that if you build it they will come. I believe that."

So Detroit's finally on board---pun intended.

It's about damn time.


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