Detroit to Start Riding Streetcar Friday

Detroit to Start Riding Streetcar Friday

Plus Nevada smooths light rail, and more in our weekly New Starts.

(Credit: M-1 Rail)

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Our weekly “New Starts” roundup of new and newsworthy transportation projects worldwide.

Detroit’s QLine Is Ready for Its Close-up
Come Friday, the nonprofit private organization behind the $142 million bet on central Detroit’s future that is the QLine streetcar will begin to see if it will pay off in a revitalized city core as it hopes.

Friday is the day the line enters service, and a Detroit Free Press feature goes into detail about how it will function and what it will connect, and the hopes of its backers and the businesses located along it.

Matt Cullen, the CEO of M-1 Rail, the nonprofit that built and will run the streetcar, told the paper that the project already has brought benefits “as a catalyst for economic development.”

The 3.3-mile line connects Downtown Detroit with the New Center, Midtown and North End districts via Woodward Avenue, passing by many of Detroit’s major spectator sports facilities and cultural attractions along the way. A one-way trip from end to end will take anywhere from 20 to 35 minutes, depending on the day and time; the $1.50 fare is good for three hours from time of purchase. M-1 Rail projects initial ridership of 5,000 per day, a figure it hopes will rise to 8,000 per day in the near future.

New York Studies a Cross-Harbor Rail Freight Tunnel
The Hudson River tunnels that feed New York’s Penn Station aren’t the only ones being discussed as critical infrastructure needs for the region. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ) is also exploring the possibility of building a tunnel under New York Harbor for rail freight as a way to relieve congestion caused by truck traffic on the region’s highways and speed the movement of goods into and out of the city.

The International Railway Journal reports that the PANYNJ has issued a request for proposals to conduct the second phase of an environmental impact study for the Cross Harbor Freight Tunnel, which would connect rail routes in Brooklyn with an existing freight yard in Jersey City. A previous environmental impact study identified the tunnel as one of the best means by which New York City can alleviate both the congestion and the strain on the city’s roads and bridges caused by freight traffic by physically connecting it once again to the national freight rail network.

The office of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo estimates that the tunnel could eliminate 1,800 truck movements across New York Harbor each day.

Currently, trucks carry nearly 90 percent of the New York region’s freight, with rail accounting for only 3 percent of the total. The governor’s office says that freight traffic in the region is expected to grow by 37 percent in the next 20 years, an amount too large for the road infrastructure to handle.

The PANYNJ has committed $35 million to the Tier 2 environmental impact study and can access up to $35 million more for design and engineering work. The study will also examine the impact of enhancements to the existing train ferries across the harbor.

Nevada Senate Smooths Path for Light Rail in Vegas
The Las Vegas Sun reports that a bill approved by the Nevada Senate with bipartisan support lays the groundwork for the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada to actually begin work on a light-rail system for Las Vegas if and when it’s ready to proceed.

The bill, which is now being debated in the Nevada Assembly, clarifies state law to ensure that regional transportation agencies have the authority to carry out rail transit projects.

The commission is currently conducting an environmental assessment of several transportation improvements, including light rail and bus rapid transit, for the Maryland Parkway corridor, which connects McCarran International Airport with a number of other sites of regional importance, including downtown, the University of Nevada-Las Vegas and Sunrise Hospital.

Once the assessment is completed this summer, the agency expects to move on to design work and solicit bids for construction of the projects. A light-rail line could begin service as soon as 2022 if all the elements fall into place, including taxes to fund construction; the bill also seeks to clarify the requirements to place taxes for transit projects on the ballot for voter approval.

Know of a project that should be featured in this column? Send a Tweet with links to @MarketStEl using the hashtag #newstarts.

Next City contributor Sandy Smith is the home and real estate editor at Philadelphia magazine. Over the years, his work has appeared in Hidden City Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Inquirer and other local and regional publications. His interest in cities stretches back to his youth in Kansas City, and his career in journalism and media relations extends back that far as well.

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