2011

July: M1 Rail, the private coalition, privately expresses concerns about the plan and refuses to comment publicly. The group doesn't think the plan is sustainable, disagrees with the layout, and believes the plan should be more closely tied to regional transit. A source tells Crains the private money will be held until the project improves.

July 13: Bing proposes a 5-person panel to oversee construction of the rail project, with four members appointed by the mayor and one by council.

August 7: A stop added at Temple Street suggests a new stadium may be in the works nearby, as the area is otherwise underpopulated, reports Bill Shea for Crains. That stop and three others added are expected to raise the cost by $24M to the current $528M cost. Station costs were estimated at $2-4M each; train car costs at $3.5-4M.

August 8: Leaders of cities in Oakland County have come together to apply for federal funding to explore extending the line past 8 Mile, including to Royal Oak and Birmingham.

September 1: The Federal Transportation Administration approved the environmental study for the first phase of the project. Bing has been meeting with members of the private M-1 group. City Council has still not approved an authority to manage the rail, saying it would give Bing too much control.

September 12: Federal Transit Administration head Peter Rogoff says an RTA will be necessary for the system to be well positioned. DDOT expects to apply for the federal money in late 2011 or Spring 2012. The funding could happen before the authority is in place. Rogoff expressed concerns about the number and variety of funding sources, saying stable projects generally have one large funder. The FTA does not allow institutions to take money from bus funding to support the rail system.

September 15: Bing wants to give management control of the project to the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation. The DEGC may be able to clear through political problems because of its development expertise and quasi-independent status. Members of the DEGC also have strong connections to the M1 Rail group.

November 18: Barack Obama signs a bill allowing funding for the project to go through.

On December 13, the City of Detroit announced that the plans for light rail along Woodward would be cancelled in favor of a regional system of bus rapid transit. The decision was made in discussion with governor Rick Snyder and U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. LaHood said that Transportation had "pretty much signed off on their plan." Earlier in 2011, Snyder had proposed a BRT system.

The decision ends more than four years of planning, including a recent environmental study and millions and seed money. The Bing administration made the decision because the City doesn't have a clear revenue stream to pay the estimated $10M in yearly operational costs.

Private rail backers and U.S. representatives quickly protested the decision and continued to work on plans. The M1 group released a set of talking points supporting the development A study by Oakland County of the feasibility of extending the line that was awarded $2M in October is set to continue.

Sources

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