Mass transit in Detroit and where you been BQW?

What’s up fam, I know folks are like dang, what happened to the Spade? By way of updates, Steve is a newlywed so he deserves time to enjoy his wife and Garlin is probably busy creating a new business venture. I for one am up to my neck in the Michigan Policy Summit and if you are in Michigan, you will definitely want to be a part of this annual gathering of progressives. Two dynamic keynotes in Amy Goodman and Jim Hightower along with policy focused discussions on health care, education, and environment and did I mention skills workshops for individuals and organizations ranging from social entrepreneurship to fundraising? Come out and show love May 10th and register now at www.mipolicysummit.org.

Below is an article I pulled from Crain’s in Detroit. If Detroit can turn the corner on transit, we will be on a good path. Enjoy the article and please pray for me. Stay up fam,

Mass-transit groups to meet

By Bill Shea Organizers of a $371 million project to build a light-rail line along Woodward Avenue from downtown Detroit to the State Fairgrounds were to begin meeting Monday with the backers of a privately funded plan with similar goals.

Norman White, the city of Detroit’s CFO, said Monday he’ll meet with unnamed business leaders who want to spend $103 million to construct a light rail line from Hart Plaza to Grand Boulevard. The backers of that plan, believed to be among the region’s most influential business leaders, have remained anonymous and details of the proposal, first reported Feb. 25 in Crain’s Detroit Business, remain secret.

White is director of the Detroit Transit Options for Growth Study (DTOGS) project, which has wrapped up an 18-month survey of the best route to initiate a mass-transit system in the city and region by recommending Woodward Avenue last month.

The public and private plans need to work together, White said, and the pending talks will work toward that end.

John Hertel, CEO of the Regional Transit Coordinating Council and involved in both projects, could not be reached for comment. Detroit Regional Mass Transit is being run by Hertel on behalf of the executives of Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb counties and Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, and is serving as the clearinghouse for the private Woodward project.

The DTOG study estimates 11,100 riders per day on the route, which runs past some of Detroit’s largest employers along with major cultural attractions, stadiums, entertainment venues and medical facilities. It would connect to rail lines in the New Center Area that can tap into a proposed high-speed line to Ann Arbor.

Annual operating costs are estimated at $7.4 million.

White gave a project overview during a public meeting about the DTOGS plan Monday in the lobby nonprofit NextEnergy in the city’s TechTown area.

Organizers of the DTOGS project, which is led by the Detroit Department of Transportation, are working with the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments to work the light rail plan into SEMCOG’s own plans.

Paul Tait, SEMCOG’s executive director, said the DTOGS project likely will be added in June to its 2030 Regional Transportation Plan for Southeast Michigan (RTP) and the 2008-2011 Transportation Improvement Program. Being part of those plans is a prerequisite for DDOT to get federal money for the Woodward project, Tait said.

He predicted the federal funding process would take 3-5 years, and could be jeopardized by any number of factors, including the re-authorization of a transportation bill next year, which likely would indicate what type of transit projects a new administration and a new Congress would be likely to fund.

White said construction of the line could begin by 2011 if the project is tabbed right away for Federal Transit Administration New Starts funding. He expects DDOT to submit the application by the end of the year.

New Starts money is aimed at transit projects requiring new infrastructure. The Woodward line would have 13 to 15 stops, depending on the final configuration, and would divide the street down the middle with tracks and stations.

Mark Ryan, a project manager with study author URS Corp., said a decision from the feds is expected three months after submission.

Federal money would account for 50 percent-60 percent of construction costs. The remainder would come from local, state and other sources — sources White said the DTOGS organizers have yet to officially identify and approach. The non-federal match is estimated to be about $150 million.

The $2.9 million study, which was paid for with federal money, was done by San Francisco-based transportation analysts URS Corp., which has offices in Detroit and elsewhere in Michigan.

Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and his mother, U.S. Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, D-Detroit, also spoke briefly about the need for the light rail system, and expressed their support. Cheeks Kilpatrick said she’ll work to secure the federal money the project seeks to begin construction by 2011.

“We are the last state to have an adequate, safe transportation system,” Cheeks Kilpatrick said. “It’s coming.”

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