After seven years of planning, construction on the M-1 RAIL project in Detroit, Mich., kicked off in July 2014. A modern streetcar line, the M-1 RAIL was designed to circulate 3.3 miles (6.6 miles total) along Woodward Avenue, Detroit’s main thoroughfare. This public transportation project is unprecedented in many ways, from its strategic partnerships, its workforce composition and vendor recruitment, to its technological capabilities. The M-1 RAIL project was conceived as a truly modern streetcar system—in design, construction and future operations.

The M-1 RAIL project’s 2015 construction schedule continues to be the busiest yet, with construction activities along Woodward Avenue in North End/New Center, Midtown and Downtown moving at a rapid pace. Track installation has been completed in the downtown area, with the exception of specialty track work currently occurring around Campus Martius Park, in the heart of the city. Crews also are currently installing American-made steel track in the Midtown neighborhood—just north of downtown, and work on the Penske Tech Center, which was designed with extensive community input, is in full force.

Despite this rapid pace, the M-1 RAIL project has experienced zero recordable safety incidents over some 160,000 man hours since work began last July. This record testifies to a commitment to safety and strong strategic partnerships between the M-1 RAIL project, government and private entities.

The M-1 RAIL project has partnered with the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) and the city of Detroit to provide lasting betterments to the city in addition to the streetcar line itself. Nearly three miles of roadway will be newly reconstructed from curb to curb. Moreover, during construction the city has installed a new drainage system and street lights along the entirety of the streetcar route.

After the project is complete, Woodward Avenue will be transformed. Work of this magnitude has not occurred in Detroit in nearly 100 years, which makes this project both important and complicated. Crews have discovered historic abandoned utilities buried deep underneath the roadway, including wooden waterlines, wooden conduit duct banks and old steam lines. Additionally, hundreds of feet of old, damaged and rusted streetcar track have been pulled from the ground, the skeletal remains of Detroit’s old streetcar system, which fell into disuse nearly 60 years ago.

By Paul Childs, Contributing Author, Roads & Bridges