Sunday, May 24, 2009

Light rail plans (not) reconciled

Light rail is a go. That was the word on Thursday, when Matt Cullen told reporters that Detroit's two proposed rail plans -- one public, one private -- had reached an accord, freeing the private group to begin construction on the first leg, from downtown to New Center.

Now the city's saying not so fast. If construction begins on the private M1 rail before DTOGS (the public plan) finishes its environmental review, then the federal government can't accept the $125 million behind the private effort as part of the local matching funds that the city will need to qualify for federal funding. In other words, DTOGS would be dead, because neither the city nor the state is likely to come up with that kind of money later on.

As it is, the two plans don't exactly mesh. They use different vehicles, run at different speeds, and have different alignments (curbside vs. center of the street). Naturally, they also have different operators. So even if both are built, the ride up Woodward won't be seamless. Riders will presumably have to get off at New Center and switch trains. Still, I'd gladly take two systems over none. I just fear that soon we'll be settling for just the one -- and waiting half a decade or more to see any progress on its expansion.

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