LaHood: Light Rail Will Boost Motor City

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(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood was in Detroit on Monday, just a couple days after President Barack Obama visited a car factory, drove a Volt, and otherwise touted the revival of the auto industry.

LaHood was there talking about another mode of transportation, entirely. "You build a bus line, a transit line, a light rail line, people will come, they will use it, and it will become an economic engine," LaHood said at a press conference announcing the U.S. DOT is backing an environmental review for the proposed Woodward Avenue light rail line, the linchpin of a plan to revive downtown Detroit.

The light rail, LaHood said, "will give people a new choice or maybe a  first chance to get from one place to another, from home to school, to work, to the store, to see family and friends, or a doctor. They will help make Detroit a model for livable communities. A place where transit brings housing in close proximity to jobs and businesses. A place where sidewalks and bike paths are usable, inviting, and safe."

"Woodward Avenue was the first street paved with concrete any place in the world. What an extraordinary piece of history. Its traffic was among the first to be managed by public stop lights which a Detroit police officer invented in 191," LaHood said. "And while the community is rightfully proud of its history as the birthplace of the freeway and automobile, Woodward Avenue was also once upon a time the backbone of a streetcar network and transit system replicated in cities across the United States."