DETROIT — The U.S. government plans to spend $25 million on a light-rail system through the heart of Detroit, a development federal, state and local leaders said today will finally allow the city to join the many other major urban centers that have had mass transit operations for decades.
"We're the only place that didn't have this," Gov. Rick Snyder said at a morning news event, adding that 24 attempts have been made over the past 40 years to develop a modern public transit system in Detroit.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said the federal government is awarding $25 million toward the $140-million M-1 Rail project, which would consist of a 3.3-mile streetcar line along Woodward Avenue, linking the city's downtown and the cultural, medical and educational center a few miles north.
Leaders long have said that for Detroit to grow, public transportation must improve. Light rail along Woodward, the city's primary business and commercial corridor, has been discussed for years, but some say it has become a necessity with recent moves of thousands of jobs downtown by Quicken Loans and other employers.
Detroit's current public transportation offerings include a problem-plagued public bus system and the extremely limited People Mover elevated rail.
Buses often break down, leaving riders waiting an hour or more to be picked up at stops across the city, and Mayor Dave Bing, facing a deep budget deficit, has eliminated some sparsely used routes and cut back on hours of operations along others.
The People Mover originally was designed to handle passengers riding a planned light rail line from downtown Detroit to the city's northern suburbs, but the line was canceled during the Reagan Administration. The stand-alone People Mover opened in 1987. Under its current configuration, it makes 13 stops during a 2.9-mile loop of downtown.