Ticket to Ride 

Planners prepare for Detroit's light rail to extend to Detroit's border

Designs are months from completion for the first phase of the Woodward Corridor Light Rail project, but planners and residents are already preparing for the line's northern extension to Detroit's border.

Meeting in church basements and community centers this week, discussions began about what development ideally would spring up around as many as 20 stations to be built between New Center and Eight Mile Road. Housing, retail complexes, safe parking, restaurants, highlighting historic features and connections to greenways and other transportation routes were popular on attendees' wish lists.

Planners scheduled four meetings early this week — the last planned for 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Precinct 12, 1441 W. Seven Mile Rd., Detroit — to hear what members of the Woodward Corridor community could suggest about development around the future stations.

They're not idle dreams. With Mayor Dave Bing promising groundbreaking on the train line from downtown to New Center next year, plans are under way for the second part as well. The goal is to have it operational by 2014.

Given the development that's followed similar transportation infrastructure in other cities around the country, the Woodward Corridor just might bring new businesses and other improvements to the areas surrounding the new stations.

"The train is coming. It's not Detroit folklore," says Triette Reeves, the Detroit Department of Transportation project leader. "With the train is coming the opportunity for change."

The $400 million project will be funded mainly by federal grants, state, county and city funds as well as private business and foundation contributions.

Debbie Baldwin, a resident of the Boston-Edison neighborhood, says she is enthused about the rail line's potential. "It's exciting. When it's built, I'll get to say I was at that first meeting," Baldwin says. As she works at home, she says she'd mainly use the train to get downtown for entertainment, but many of her neighbors work downtown and she'd expect them to use it to commute.

Reeves says the train line has the potential to reunite metro Detroiters who are often separated by city and suburb or race. Instead of Woodward Avenue dividing neighborhoods, it could connect them by shared stations, retail development and housing rebuilt around the rail line. As in other cities, riders would come from all economic classes, age ranges and races. "You step on the train and ride with people who look different than you, talk different than you," she says. "I want those differences to be part of our culture."

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