MI: Detroit Abandons Costly Light-Rail Proposal

Detroit this week abandoned a plan to build a $600 million light-rail line that promised to connect downtown residents with jobs in the suburbs, favoring instead a system of buses.

The announcement came less than two months after Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood met with Michigan leaders to pledge "unwavering" support for the rail line, promising $46.7 million worth of federal transit grants toward its completion.

But the escalating costs have made the project infeasible, said George Jackson, head of the Detroit Economic Growth Corp. The city was facing a $97 million gap in construction costs and $10 million a year in operating costs, he said.

"The state of Michigan basically said, 'We're not paying for your operating deficits,'" he said.

Instead, the city will put in place a new network of buses. But even that may be difficult, as the city has struggled to keep up the fleet it has now. People frequently wait more than an hour for one of the city's aging 265 buses.

The lack of a solid public transportation system in a city where 62 percent of the population do not own a car has slowed down job growth, city officials say.

"People are losing jobs because they can't reach them," Democratic Mayor Dave Bing said (Matthew Dolan, Wall Street Journal, Dec. 16). -- AP

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