by Ryan Felton
M1 Rail rendering in downtown Detroit (Courtesy M1 Rail)
In the coming weeks, construction of the long-awaited M-1 Rail streetcar in Detroit will commence. We know what you're thinking: What does that mean? Where will I park? Will I still be able to make it to the Motley Crue show at Joe Louis Arena? (Frankly, why'd you even buy a ticket for Motley Crue?)
So we'll try to answer some of your questions. Most of them, anyway.
What the hell are you talking about? M-1 what?
Great question! In case you've missed the hoopla, the M-1 Rail Streetcar project will operate along a 3.3-mile stretch of Woodward Avenue between downtown, Midtown and New Center. The project has been in consideration since 2007, and, project backers say, may serve as a catalyst for a larger, regional transit system. When it's operational in late 2016 -- officials said today they're confident that target date is doable -- it'll operate seven days a week, serving 12 stops along Woodward at 20 stations (16 along the curb, four in the center lane). Also, the Michigan Department of Transportation is going to completely overhaul Woodward in concert with the streetcar construction. Imagine that, a non-mountainous intersection of Woodward and Mack.
(In case you can't read the above map, the stops include: Congress Avenue, Campus Martius, Grand Circus Park, Foxtown, Sibley Avenue, Martin Luther King/Mack Avenue, Canfield Avenue, Warren Avenue, Ferry Avenue, Amsterdam, the Amtrak station in New Center, and Grand Boulevard.)
Will this thing run on time?
It's not like the streetcar will have it's own dedicated traffic light, so as to not interfere with gameday traffic, but M-1 Rail officials say departures will occur every 7 to 10 minutes during peak hours; 12 to 15 minutes during off-peak hours. Six streetcars will be purchased for the transit line. It'll likely cost $1.50 per ride, with fare passes operating on a trust-system of sorts; as Matt Cullen, M-1 Rail president & CEO, put it today, you'll buy the pass before the streetcar arrives. But, Cullen said, someone will occasionally drop in to ensure everyone has in fact paid.
This thing only serves the greater downtown area, though!
True, the M-1 Rail project only stretches just over 3 miles, but there are a number of connections available through the Detroit People Mover (which, as we've pointed out previously, is needed to be viable), connecting SMART and DDOT bus routes, and the New Center Amtrak station, which runs to Pontiac, Troy, Dearborn, Ann Arbor, Chicago and more. (That proposed commuter rail between Ann Arbor and Detroit probably wouldn't hurt.)
It's Friday. I want to park in Midtown and grab dinner somewhere, check out the Detroit Institute of Arts, and hit a nighttime Detroit Tigers game. Can I catch one of the streetcars after the game ends to get back to my car?
Originally, the hours of operation were pegged at 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Paul Childs, M-1 Rail COO, said today that's a likely benchmark the streetcar will follow at the beginning of operation. But, if the demand is there, Childs said they'll be able to easily adjust. So, yeah, there's still a chance that could happen.
How long is construction going to last?
Groundbreaking commences July 28. If all goes according to plan, construction should wrap up in 24-27 months, by late 2016. Childs and Cullen said enough safeguards are in place to ensure the timeline is feasible.
What about detours. Is Woodward really going to be closed for 120 days?
Well ... yeah. Four months is a long time. Here's the breakdown for the upcoming construction set to begin later this month:
Construction will happen typically 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday. There will be no action on Holidays, including New Year's Day, Easter, Memorial Day, July 4th, Labor Day, Thanksgiving or Christmas. No special events, like the annual parade, will be impacted. Pedestrians will have access to all businesses and residencies throughout construction. Cyclists can roll on anywhere besides the construction work zone.
The I-75 and I-94 bridges will be entirely reconstructed, as well. As MDOT rebuilds the two bridges, traffic will be reduced to one lane on Woodward over the freeway, while I-75 will be closed four times from M-10 to I-375. The full closures will occur on weekends from 9 p.m. Friday to 5 a.m Monday. For I-94, traffic will be slimmed back to one lane in each direction. At times, one to two lanes of the freeway will be closed during off-peak hours between John R and Cass.
What about DDOT and SMART service during construction?
The 53 and the numerous SMART buses along Woodward will continue operating during construction, just at different stops. M-1 Rail suggests calling DDOT ahead of time at 888-336-8287, or SMART at 866-962-5515. Their websites are detroitmi.gov and smartbus.org. And, in case you were wondering, the People Mover will still be operational.
Is that all?
Yeah, just remember the road will closed entirely between Campus Martius and Adams starting Monday, July 28. Any updates can be found at m-1rail.com, or on Twitter @M1Rail.