Woodward Light Rail Project Overview

Planning for a rapid transit system began in 2006 when the Detroit Department of Transportation (DDOT) conducted an Alternatives Analysis (AA) study known as Detroit Transit Options for Growth Study (DTOGS).  The study resulted in the selection of light rail service on Woodward from downtown to Eight Mile Road as the locally preferred alternative. 

Subsequently, the Woodward light rail alternative was incorporated into the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG) regional Transportation Improvement Plan and Long Range Transportation Plan.

At the same time, a group of business and civic leaders (M-1 RAIL) was exploring how to bring light rail service to Woodward Avenue as the first phase of a regional transit system. The M-1 RAIL and DTOGS plans are now aligned as the Woodward Light Rail project.

Light rail on Woodward will be implemented as a single project built in two phases. While a final schedule has yet to be developed, construction is anticipated to begin in 2011 on the first phase with the full system up and operational by 2016. The two phases are:

Phase 1: Downtown Detroit to West Grand Boulevard

Phase 2: West Grand Boulevard to Eight Mile Road


Frequently Asked Questions

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About the New Starts Program

The New Starts program is the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) discretionary grant program which supports locally planned, implemented, and operated major transit capital investments. The New Starts program funds new and extensions to existing fixed guideway transit systems in every area of the country. These projects include commuter rail, light rail, heavy rail, bus rapid transit, streetcars, and ferries.

The Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) has authorized $6.6 billion in New Starts funding through fiscal year 2009.  SAFETEA-LU has been extended and in fiscal year 2010, Congress appropriated $2 billion in New Starts funding. 

New Starts projects, like all transportation investments in metropolitan areas, must emerge from a regional, multi-modal transportation planning process.  The process is based upon rational decision making that benefits from the information developed during the following three phases of New Starts project development:

Alternatives Analysis
Local project sponsors are required to perform an AA that evaluates the mode and alignment options for a particular corridor in the community. This analysis informs local officials and community members on the benefits, costs and impacts of transportation options, so that the community can identify a preference. This phase is complete when local and regional decision makers select a locally preferred alternative, and it is adopted by the metropolitan planning organization (MPO) into the region's long-range transportation plan.

The Woodward Light Rail project, from downtown to Eight Mile Road, emerged from the Alternatives Analysis as the locally preferred alternative and has been adopted into the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments’ (SEMCOG) Transportation Improvement Plan and Long Range Transportation Plan.

Preliminary Engineering
During the Preliminary Engineering (PE) phase of project development for New Starts investments, local project sponsors consider their design options to refine the locally preferred alternative and complete the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process.  PE hones the estimates of project costs, benefits, and impacts.   In addition, during the PE phase of project development, local sponsors finalize management plans, demonstrate their technical capabilities to develop the project, and commit local funding sources.

Final Design
Final Design is the last phase of project development and includes the preparation of final construction plans, detailed specifications and bid documents. 


Detroit Transit Options for Growth Study - Purpose and Need Study


In March 2008, The Detroit Transit Options for Growth Study (DTOGS) team produced a comprehensive Purpose and Need Study to advance the implementation of regional and local rapid transit improvements to serve current and future population and employment centers and other destinations. The study identified and evaluated options to improve access and mobility within the study area.