Feds Not Sold on Detroit Green Rail

Federal authorities may have soured on Detroit’s $137 million train system, given the state’s financial woes and fears of bankruptcy. The Detroit Free Press reports:

The plan for a 3.3-mile light rail line on Woodward Avenue hit a red light this morning when top U.S. transportation officials told local backers of the plan that the feds still aren’t convinced Detroit’s streetcar plan is ready to go over the long haul.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff met this morning with some of the state’s top political leaders at Mayor Dave Bing’s office. Neither LaHood nor Rogoff attended a news conference after a 90-minute meeting with local and federal leaders.

The train system is the brainchild of the Kresge Foundation, which shifted its mission from building schools and hospitals to financing anti-war and environmentalist groups after a change in leadership in 2006.

Kresge pledged to support Detroit’s efforts to reverse decades of economic decline by contributing to the  "Detroit Works" anti-poverty program, but later threatened to withdraw funding if the city did not accommodate its environmentalist-inspired aspirations of a "green" train system.

LaHood is worried that the city will not be able to sustain the long-term costs of the program once it is complete. He has given local officials 60 days to prepare a plan to pay for the system’s operations.