The Woodward Avenue Action Association has commissioned a task force to build regional consensus and explore funding for mass transit plans like the Woodward Light Rail project.
The task force, chaired by Birmingham Planning Director Jana Ecker, has been meeting since September and will hold planning sessions and direct studies of area transportation patterns and demographics, as well as build support for the proposal in south Oakland County, said Association Executive Director Heather Carmona.
“The desire here is to formalize a position from the communities in south Oakland on what needs to be done with mass transit,” she said.
“None of these communities have assembled to build consensus on what the vision is for Woodward. What would the intersection of I-696 and Woodward look like if there was a rail line? What would (William) Beaumont (Hospitals’ Royal Oak campus) look like in terms of its own redevelopment if something like this develops at that corner?”
New York engineering firm Parsons Brinckerhoff, which has a Detroit office, has been hired to manage the environmental impact study process for the city with federal funds approved earlier this year.
Construction would begin in late 2011 or early 2012, after a 12- to 18-month study.
But the current proposal funded by Detroit and private investors runs only from Hart Plaza to Eight Mile Road, and extending it to 11 Mile Road would add an estimated $500 million to the cost.
The task force expects to study the feasibility of extending the line from Eight Mile to Maple Road, but Carmona said the commission members can take some of the task force recommendations back to their own communities to gauge local support in the coming months.
Carmona also said the task force hopes to have some proposals on local mass transit by next fall.
The association may also be able to leverage its standing for federal funds as part of the National Scenic Byway Program managed by the Federal Highway Administration, to seek federal funding, she said.
To date the association has obtained around $4 million in byway award funding for other projects, including an Automotive Welcome Center in Highland Park as well as street signs, crosswalks and some infrastructure improvements.
Other task force members include: Birmingham Mayor Mark Nickita, Royal Oak Mayor Jim Ellison, Ferndale Mayor Pro Tem Kate Baker, Ferndale Downtown Development Authority Executive Director Cristina Sheppard-Decuis, Ferndale Councilmember Melanie Piana, Berkley Councilman Steve Baker, Huntington Woods Commissioner Jeff Jenks, and transportation programs coordinator Richard Murphy of the Michigan Suburbs Alliance.
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Source: Michigan Suburbs Alliance