The following clip comes from the Detroit Free Press:
The ambitious plan for a light-rail line on Woodward Avenue between downtown Detroit and 8 Mile has been scrapped in favor of a system of city and suburban buses, several officials briefed on the decision told the Free Press today.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood told Detroit Mayor Dave Bing that doubts that Detroit could pay operating costs over the long term for the light-rail line because of its and the state’s financial problems swayed him against the plan. The decision came despite earlier public support that included LaHood’s 2010 visit to Detroit to award a $25-million grant to get the project moving.
LaHood, President Barack Obama’s top transportation official, met last week with Bing and Snyder, and the sides agreed that the better option is a system of rapid-transit buses operating in dedicated lanes on routes from downtown to and through the suburbs along Gratiot, Woodward and Michigan avenues and along M-59, the officials said.
…The decision to scrap the light-rail plan outraged Megan Owens, director of the Detroit advocacy group Transportation Riders United, who said she had heard rumblings in recent weeks that “the project was in trouble” in large part because there was no dedicated source of operating money, estimated to be at least $10 million a year, for the rail line after it was built.
Supporters said the light-rail line would spur major residential and commercial redevelopment along Woodward well in excess of what it would cost to build the line. “We’re basically throwing away a $3-billion economic development investment,” Owens said. “I’m outraged Mayor Bing would let this happen on his watch.”
This is bad news for Detroit, but I don’t know how unexpected it is. With Snyder preparing to take the city over and impose even more drastic austerity measures, I knew it was unlikely that the state would come through and guarantee operating expenses. I think it’s become pretty clear that the state doesn’t want to put another dollar into Detroit. I don’t see how the state of Michigan can be successful without a functional Detroit, but I guess we’ve decided to take that chance.
update: According to Carmine Palombo of SEMCOG, the planned Detroit – Ann Arbor commuter train is moving ahead despite the cancellation of the Woodard Avenue project.