Transportation Secretary LaHood announces $25 million in funding for M-1 Rail project

DETROIT (WXYZ) - US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced that the M-1 Rail project will move forward thanks in part to a $25 million transit grant.

The federal funding will be used to construct a 3.3-mile long streetcar line along the Woodward Avenue corridor. It comes on the heels of a $100 million commitment from the M-1 Rail coalition towards the project.

The M-1 Rail coalition is a consortium of local private businesses, foundations, and public and private institutions committed to improving mobility and supporting economic development along lower Woodward Avenue. Investors include the Kresge Foundation, the Penske Corporation, Quicken Loans and a dozen other benefactors.

Right now, when you drive along Woodward there is a lot of stop and go. It makes it harder for businesses in areas like New Center to cash in on events happening downtown.

"Right now, you have about a 15 minute drive a lot of stopping and going in front of you and a light rail would be much more beneficial to the students and ourselves," said Thomas Griffiths. Griffiths manages Rodin, a new French restaurant next to the Detroit Institute of Arts.

A new transportation system like theM-1 Rail would give them more foot traffic.

"Right now we're building. We're creating hopefully an institution and be here for a long time. Kind of just going off the location and playing off that," said Griffiths.

The proposed M-1 Rail is a streetcar system that will connect 3.3 miles of businesses along Woodward from the riverfront to New Center. 

Secretary LaHood made the announcement at the Wayne State University Welcome Center Friday morning. He was joined by Governor Rick Snyder, Senator Carl Levin, Senator Debbie Stabenow, Congressman John Dingell, Congressman John Conyers, Congressman Gary Peters, Congressman Sander Levin, Detroit Mayor Dave Bing, Officials from the M1 Rail Corporation and Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff.

"This is going to be in the history books," said LaHood.

Many we spoke to on Thursday anticipated the announcement.

"I think we can anticipate the $25 million will be coming for the M-1 Rail project," said John Hertel, General Manager of the SMART bus system. 

"I think you can also see the possibility or probability of several million more dollars coming for the regional transit authority to get the regional transit authority up and running," Hertel went on the speculate.  "This is the thing we have been waiting for ...for 50 years."

The six street cars would make 11 stops along Woodward Avenue and operate from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Those stops are expected include Campus Martius, Comerica Park, the Detroit Medical Center area and Wayne State University.

The M1 Rail project is expected to create more than 2200 jobs. Construction is expected to start in the spring/summer of 2013 and it could be operational in the fall of 2015.

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