MI: M-1 Rail Construction Kicks Off on Woodward

July 29--Next stop: 2016.

The long-awaited start to construction of the M-1 Rail streetcar line got under way Monday along Woodward Avenue in downtown Detroit. With construction scheduled to last a little over two years, look for the M-1 cars to be running by late 2016.

Construction crews were using heavy equipment to break up the pavement on Woodward to prepare to lay down tracks for the new system.

Mayor Mike Duggan hailed the start of work as key to Detroit's revival.

"This is history. It was 1956 that the street railway system was torn up in the city of Detroit," Duggan told reporters Monday. "We have not had light rail in this city for more than half a century. If you're gong to build a true city with real density, you've got to have light rail."

The M-1 Rail streetcar line will run up Woodward Avenue from Jefferson Avenue to Grand Boulevard in New Center. Regional planning officials also hope to create a so-called bus rapid transit system throughout metro Detroit under the leadership of the new Regional Transit Authority.

"This is a start," Duggan said. "We ultimately need to build this rail line not just to Grand Boulevard but out to 8 Mile and out to Pontiac. But for today, this is a very exciting beginning."

Construction has closed Woodward Avenue between Campus Martius and Grand Circus Park, but cross streets remain open and sidewalks are open to lessen the impact on local businesses.

Some 700 construction workers are expected to find employment building M-1 Rail, which is estimated to cost about $140 million to build.

-- Q&A: Frequently asked questions about M-1 Rail construction project (Adobe PDF)

Flanked by M-1 Rail's chairman Roger Penske and its CEO Matt Cullen, Duggan recalled how seven years ago they came to him when he was CEO of the Detroit Medical Center and asked him to donate $3 million to sponsor a station along a privately funded rail line. Ultimately, M-1's financing came to include both private and public funds.

"I thought these guys were crazy," Duggan said. "But they have stayed with it through a number of ups and downs and I can't say 'thank you' enough on behalf of the people of the city of Detroit."

Contact John Gallagher: 313-222-5173 or gallagher@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @jgallagherfreep.

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