Woodward Avenue Streetcar to Connect Windsor Commuters, Bolster Detroit

Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Windsor Star/Dave Battagello

Construction of a cutting-edge $140-million streetcar service that investors believe will play a vital role to help revitalize Detroit is poised to begin within days.

Known as the M-1 Rail, the new transit line will be installed and operate on a five-kilometre section of Woodward Avenue stretching from the riverfront at Jefferson Avenue north to Grand Boulevard and the Fisher Building.

“We are excited,” said Paul Childs, chief operating officer for the project. “We have spent a lot of time planning. We have been waiting seven years to get on the ground. Now we are looking forward to doing the work and anxious to go.

“It’s a feel good project, but also back to the future. The streetcar last ran here on Woodward in 1956.”

But the new sleek multi-car, computerized service is not your grandfather’s streetcar.

The modern design offers Wi-Fi, bike storage and climate-controlled cars that will pass through each of the 20 stations every seven to 10 minutes. The anticipated cost for a ride will be $1.50 with discount rates to be offered to seniors and frequent users.

Belief in the project and what it will mean economically for Detroit is so strong that over $100 million of the project’s cost is being paid through private donations by some of Detroit’s wealthiest individuals including billionaires Roger Penske and Dan Gilbert. The rest of the funds are coming from the U.S. federal government.

“These projects have proven to be great economic development tools,” Childs said.

“It’s been proven around the U.S. and the world when a streetcar like this comes into play it activates the sidewalk, which activates commercial development. When you do that, it activates residential. We are expecting 10,000 new housing (units) in the next 10 years just in this new corridor.”

Windsorites will also play a vital role in making the new streetcar a success as a connection location will be provided with Transit Windsor’s tunnel bus.

The best benefit will likely be for local post-secondary school students who frequently cross the border, largely those who attend Wayne State University. Many currently wrestle with traffic and parking, but will soon be able to use the tunnel bus, jump on the M-1 rail car and be on campus with the school being one of the streetcar’s planned primary stops.

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