Friday, December 11, 2009

Funding for Woodward Avenue light rail project clears political hurdle

Detroit’s Woodward Avenue light rail plans have cleared a key hurdle, with an agreement struck in Washington on matching funds that can qualify for the project.

U.S. Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, D-Detroit, announced that she got an amendment added to a federal omnibus appropriations bill that will allow $125 million that privately funded M1 Rail Inc. will spend on a link between Detroit’s Hart Plaza and New Center to be used as local matching funds for a publicly funded further extension of the line.

The city of Detroit plans an estimated $300 million extension of the line, from the New Center to Eight Mile Road.

Crain’s had previously reported the funding match provision had run into objections from U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman James Oberstar, D-Minn., whose concerns included that bill language failed to require the private project to meet federal requirements for projects receiving federal funds.

Kilpatrick, however, said in a news release she was “able to forge a compromise” that will allow the $125 million to be applied toward the local match for the Woodward light rail project.

The provision was in the final version of the federal transportation budget that’s part of a multi-department appropriations bill that passed the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday.

The measure is expected to also pass the U.S. Senate and be signed into law by President Obama, Kilpatrick said.

In a statement, Detroit Mayor Dave Bing called it “an important development for the future of mass transit in our city. This legislation would allow once and for all a true public-private partnership to be formed for light rail on Woodward Avenue.”

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