Are the Feds Giving Up on Detroit?

Maybe something good has come out of Detroit’s impending bankruptcy. The Detroit Free Press reports that the feds have pulled the plug on the city’s proposed light-rail project, which would run along Woodward Avenue between downtown and 8 Mile Road.

Taxpayers can breathe a sigh of relief that their hard-earned tax dollars will not be wasted on a decision that was bound to be another financial drain on the city. Such projects all around the country have a history of being money losers in all but the densest urban corridors along the East Coast.

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Instead of light rail, a system of rapid transit buses utilizing dedicated traffic lanes running from downtown through the suburbs will be pursued. It remains to be seen if such a plan will be successful, but the concept makes more sense than a light rail that runs to nowhere. Anyone who regularly drives in the metro Detroit area recognizes that the major traffic patterns are not on Woodward Avenue to downtown, but rather between suburbs where most people live and work. A bus system, as opposed to light rail, has the ability to transport people where they actually need to go.

Underlying the announcement (a rare victory for common sense) was a foreboding message from U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. He informed Detroit Mayor Dave Bing that he didn’t think Detroit could afford to pay operating costs for the project long term. Such an overwhelming lack of confidence in Detroit and Michigan is startling, especially from a top Obama administration official who has been pushing light-rail projects around the country, including California which has a higher unemployment rate than Michigan.

Judging by LaHood’s comments, it sounds like even the spendthrift federal government has given up on Detroit. It is imperative that city and state officials take whatever action is necessary to right Detroit’s financial ship before others follow suit. 

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