M-1 Rail Line

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M-1 Rail
M-1 RAIL logo.png
Type Streetcar
Status Under construction
Locale Detroit, Michigan
Termini North End
Downtown Detroit
Stations 12 locations (21 stops)
Daily ridership 5,400 (forecast)[1]
Opened 2017 (predicted)
Operator(s) M-1 Rail
Rolling stock Brookville Equipment Corporation
Line length 3.3 mi (5.3 km)
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Electrification overhead catenary, lithium-ion battery
Route map
Amtrak to Pontiac
Grand Boulevard
Amtrak Detroit (Amtrak station)
Amtrak to Chicago
Detroit People Mover
Grand Circus Park
Campus Martius
Source: M-1 Rail Business Plan[2]

The M-1 Rail Line, also known as the Woodward Avenue Streetcar by the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) is a streetcar line under construction, to run along M-1 (Woodward Avenue) in Detroit, Michigan. In December 2011, city and state leaders announced a plan to offer bus rapid transit service for the city and metropolitan area instead of light rail as had previously been proposed. Soon afterwards, M-1 Rail, a consortium of private and public businesses and institutions in the region, announced the plan for a 3.3-mile-long (5.3 km) streetcar line along part of the same route as the cancelled light rail plan, connecting the downtown Detroit People Mover to the railway station in New Center which serves Amtrak and the proposed SEMCOG commuter rail system.


Detroit's first streetcar service began in 1863 with horsecars. Electrification of the streetcar system followed, starting in 1886. Detroit's streetcar lines eventually saw their operations consolidated under the privately owned Detroit United Railway. Municipal takeover and control of the streetcar network by Detroit's Department of Street Railways followed in 1922.[3] But the Department of Street Railways' introduction of buses (starting in 1925) ultimately led to the demise of the original streetcar system in 1956.[3][4]

Planning for the return of rapid transit to Detroit began in 2006 when the Detroit Department of Transportation (DDOT) commissioned a study to determine expanded mass transit options along Woodward Avenue.[5] Concurrently, a private group of local business leaders decided to provide matching funds to government dollars to develop a $125 million, 3.4-mile (5.5 km) line through central Detroit (similar to the Tacoma Link) called the M-1 Rail Line. After much wrangling between the private investors and the DDOT, the two groups decided to work in tandem on developing DDOT's 9.3-mile (15.0 km) line.

The proposed line ran 9.3 miles (15.0 km) along Woodward Avenue from the Rosa Parks Transit Center to the old State Fairgrounds along 8 Mile Road.[6] The line would have had 19 stops with 10 cars running at a time in two-car trains; each train would carry 150 people. The trains would run in a dedicated right-of-way in the median from 8 Mile to Adams Street at the north end of downtown. South of Adams, the trains would run in traffic along the sides of the street.

The estimated cost for the proposed line was $500 million.[6] The Kresge Foundation awarded a $35 million grant to the city for the project in March 2009.[7] It received $25 million in funding from the United States Department of Transportation in February 2010.[8][9] The Detroit City Council approved the sale of $125 million in bonds on April 11, 2011.[10] The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) and the City of Detroit signed an environmental impact study on July 1, 2011.[5] Finally, on August 31, 2011, the FTA signed a record of decision allowing the project to move forward.[11]

In December 2011 the federal government withdrew its support for the proposed line, in favor of a bus rapid transit system which would serve the city and suburbs.[12] This decision arose out of discussions between federal Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, Detroit Mayor Dave Bing and Governor Rick Snyder. The private investors who had initially supported the smaller three-mile (4.8 km) M-1 Rail line to New Center stated that they would continue developing that project through the nonprofit M-1 Rail Consortium.[13]


On January 18, 2013, U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced that M-1 Rail would receive $25 million in federal grant support for the streetcar project.[8][9][14] He had previously committed to the funds on the condition that a regional transit authority was created for the Detroit area.[15] In late 2012, the Regional Transit Authority of Southeast Michigan was created by state law,[16] which enabled LaHood's approval.[17]

On April 22, 2013, the project received final environmental clearance from the federal government, with construction expected to start in the fall.[18]

On December 20, 2013, M-1 Rail began underground utility relocation work along Woodward Avenue, the first step toward full-fledged construction activities of the 3.3-mile (5.3 km) streetcar line, with construction scheduled to start in mid-2014.[19] Stacy & Witbeck were formally awarded the contract to construct the M-1 Rail streetcar line on July 31, 2013.[8][9][20] M-1 Rail officials announced on July 3, 2014, that the Woodward Avenue overpasses for both I-75 and I-94 freeways will be demolished during construction of the rail line, and that new wider bridges will be built.[21]

On July 20, 2014, the Ilitch family, owner of Olympia Development of Michigan, and major investor in M-1 Rail, announced that the streetcar line will include a stop at the new $450 million Detroit Red Wings arena in Midtown, when construction is completed in mid-2017.[22]

M-1 Rail officially started construction on July 28, 2014.[23] The streetcar line will stretch from downtown Detroit to Grand Boulevard in New Center. There will be 20 different stations serving 12 stops, with most of the stations being curbside on either side of Woodward Avenue going uptown or downtown, but changing to center road stations at the north and south ends of the system. At the time, the streetcar line was expected to be operational in late 2016.[24]

On September 9, 2014, the US DOT announced that M-1 Rail would receive an additional $12.2 million in federal grant money to complete the financing of the M-1 Rail project.[25] US Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx gave the keynote address at a rail signing ceremony on September 15, 2014 at Grand Circus Park.[26][27][28][29] Local officials were in attendance as were executives of local businesses who were sponsoring stations near their places of business. A new official map was made public.[30]

Approximately 60 percent of the line will not be equipped with overhead electrical wires, and the streetcars will be powered solely from lithium-ion batteries on that section.[31]

On February 15, 2015, M-1 Rail reported that the Penske Tech Center was under construction in New Center. The $6.9 million, 19,000-square-foot (1,800 m2) structure will serve as the M-1 Rail headquarters, the operations center, and the streetcar maintenance facility. The tech center building will be sited close to Woodward Avenue, and located between Bethune and Custer streets north and east of Grand Boulevard with the streetcar storage yard behind. The exterior will be made of reddish brick to mimic the historical look and feel of the surrounding neighborhood, and is expected to be completed by the end of 2015.[32]

In August 2015, M-1 Rail officials said that the opening of the line would be delayed until 2017 at the earliest, partially because of new federal safety standards that are coming into effect, as well as a construction slowdown during the previous winter and delays in building the rolling stock.[33]

Rolling stock[edit]

Crain's Detroit Business reported that the line would cost $137 million, including the purchase of six streetcar vehicles.[34] Bids were expected to include low-floor, air-conditioned vehicles, capable of transporting passengers in wheelchairs. The vehicles will have operator's controls at both ends—eliminating the need for the vehicles to turn around for their return trips.

On November 4, 2014, M-1 announced that Czech-based Inekon had been awarded a $30 million contract for six vehicles.[35] Upon that deal falling apart, M-1 Rail instead awarded a $32 million contract to Pennsylvania-based Brookville Equipment Corporation.[31] The purchase includes six articulated, three-section, 66-foot-long (20 m) cars, equipped with 750-volt rechargeable lithium-ion batteries for off-wire movement on sections of the line not equipped with overhead wire.[31]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Supplemental Environmental Assessment" (PDF). Michigan Department of Transportation. Retrieved February 14, 2013. 
  2. ^ "M-1 Rail Streetcar Project Business Plan" (PDF). M-1 Rail. April 20, 2012. Figure 2.1. Retrieved August 28, 2013. 
  3. ^ a b Schramm, Kenneth (2006). Detroit's Street Railways. Images of Rail. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing. pp. 7–8, 11–13. ISBN 0-7385-4027-7. 
  4. ^ Kurlyandchik, Mark (May 2012). "After 50+ Years, Streetcars Could Come Back to Woodward". Hour Detroit. ISSN 1098-9684. Archived from the original on August 21, 2012. Retrieved August 20, 2012. 
  5. ^ a b "Project Overview". Woodward Light Rail. Retrieved October 17, 2011. 
  6. ^ a b "Woodward Light Rail Project Cancelled, M-1 Streetcar Still in the Works". Detroit Transportation Riders United. Retrieved October 17, 2011. 
  7. ^ "Kresge Foundation Awards Nearly $73 Million in Grants in the First Quarter of 2009" (Press release). Council of Michigan Foundations. March 9, 2009. [dead link]
  8. ^ a b c "Detroit Streetcar Construction Contract Awarded". Railway Gazette. August 2, 2013. Archived from the original on November 9, 2013. Retrieved September 5, 2014. 
  9. ^ a b c "Detroit Light Rail Project Gets Grant". Railway Gazette. February 22, 2013. Archived from the original on August 27, 2013. Retrieved September 5, 2014. 
  10. ^ "City Council Approves Detroit Light Rail Project". Southfield, MI: WWJ-TV. April 12, 2011. 
  11. ^ "Detroit's Woodward Ave. Light Rail Project Moves Forward, but Still Has Long Road to Completion". MLive (Detroit: Booth Newspapers). September 6, 2011. Archived from the original on December 15, 2011. Retrieved December 15, 2011. 
  12. ^ Bing, Dave (December 18, 2011). "Rapid Bus System Is a Win for Metro Detroit". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved December 18, 2011. 
  13. ^ Helms, Matt; Egan, Paul; Gallagher, John (December 14, 2011). "Detroit Light-Rail Plan Is Dead: Buses Will Be Used Instead". Detroit Free Press. 
  14. ^ Helms, Matt (January 18, 2013). "Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood Brings $25 Million in Federal Aid for M-1 Rail Project". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved January 28, 2013. 
  15. ^ Cwiek, Sarah (October 15, 2012). "LaHood: Metro Detroit, State Need to Move on Regional transit Authority". Michigan Radio. Retrieved January 27, 2016. 
  16. ^ "Senate Bill No. 909" (PDF). Michigan State Legislature. Retrieved September 17, 2013. 
  17. ^ "M1 Rail: Ray LaHood, U.S. Transit Secretary, Announces $25 Million in Funding for Detroit Transit Plan". The Huffington Post. January 18, 2013. Retrieved January 27, 2016. 
  18. ^ Helms, Matt (April 22, 2013). "M-1 Rail Project Gets Final OK from Federal Government". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved October 21, 2013. 
  19. ^ "M-1 Rail Begins Underground Utility Relocation Work, Shutdown of Woodward Avenue Is Not Required: Utility Relocations Will Not Prevent Customer Access to Businesses on Woodward" (Press release). M-1 Rail. December 2013. Retrieved January 3, 2014. 
  20. ^ Bowen, Douglas John (July 31, 2013). "Stacy and Witbeck win Detroit M1 contract". Railway Age. Archived from the original on August 19, 2013. Retrieved September 6, 2014. 
  21. ^ Walker, Marlon A. (July 3, 2014). "M-1 Rail Construction to Close Freeways as Woodward Overpasses Are Rebuilt". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved July 11, 2014 – via M-1 Rail. 
  22. ^ Shea, Bill (July 20, 2014). "Detroit Rink City: Ilitches' Grand Plan to Supersize the Entertainment District". Crain's Detroit Business. Retrieved July 23, 2014. 
  23. ^ "Detroit Streetcar Breaks Ground". Railway Gazette. July 28, 2014. Archived from the original on September 6, 2014. Retrieved September 5, 2014. 
  24. ^ "Construction Starts on Detroit Rail". The Mining Journal (Marquette, MI). Associated Press. July 28, 2014. p. 5A. 
  25. ^ Spangler, Todd & Gallagher, John (September 9, 2014). "Feds Give M-1 Rail $12.2 Million". Detroit Free Press. Archived from the original on September 11, 2014. Retrieved September 11, 2014. 
  26. ^ "Officials participate in track signing ceremony celebrating Detroit streetcar project". The Republic (Columbus, IN). Associated Press. September 15, 2014. Archived from the original on September 17, 2014. Retrieved September 16, 2014. 
  27. ^ "Detroit light rail receives more TIGER funding". Railway Gazette. September 16, 2014. Archived from the original on September 17, 2014. Retrieved September 16, 2014. 
  28. ^ "USDOT's Foxx, Detroit officials sign ceremonial track for M-1 Rail streetcar". Progressive Railroading. September 16, 2014. Archived from the original on September 17, 2014. Retrieved September 16, 2014. 
  29. ^ Williams, AJ (September 16, 2014). "U.S. DOT Secretary Foxx Announces $12.2 Million for M-1 RAIL in Detroit". Michigan Chronicle (Detroit). Archived from the original on September 17, 2014. Retrieved September 16, 2014. 
  30. ^ Walsh, Tom (September 16, 2014). "Tom Walsh: M-1 Rail Makes Noise as New Donors Push Line Ahead". Detroit Free Press. Archived from the original on September 16, 2014. 
  31. ^ a b c Shepardson, David (June 8, 2015). "M-1 Rail Buying 6 Off-Wire Streetcars for $32M". The Detroit News. Retrieved June 11, 2015. 
  32. ^ Gallagher, John (February 15, 2015). "M-1 Rail's Tech Center Under Construction". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved February 15, 2015. 
  33. ^ "Detroit Streetcar Project M-1 Delayed through 2017". Trains. August 6, 2015. Retrieved August 16, 2015. 
  34. ^ Shea, Bill (October 14, 2013). "M-1 Rail to Bidders: Contract will begin Dec. 1; Streetcar Service will begin February 2016". Crain's Detroit Business. Archived from the original on February 12, 2014. Retrieved February 12, 2014. 
  35. ^ "Detroit Streetcar Project Selects Inekon to Supply Vehicles". Trains. November 4, 2014. Retrieved November 5, 2014. 

External links[edit]