Detroit heads even further down the rails to its mass-transit future as the M-1 RAIL continues its construction even as the thermometer drops.

“Working through the winter lays the groundwork that allows for our construction crews to quickly ramp up once the weather breaks,” said M-1 RAIL Chief Operating Officer Paul Childs. “Next year construction will reach its peak. We have an aggressive schedule planned that will ensure we are able to deliver the project safely and on time in 2016.”

Here’s what’s coming in 2015:

  • Downtown Track and Station Work: Specialty track will arrive in the spring to allow for track installation between State and Larned and around Campus Martius Park. Crews will also begin track installation between Adams and I-75 as soon as weather permits. Station platforms will be poured at Larned, north of Campus Martius Park, at Grand Circus Park, and north of Montcalm.
  • Midtown and North End Streetcar and Roadwork: Crews will transition from utility installation to focusing on MDOT’s reconstruction of Woodward Avenue and track installation from I-75 all the way north to Chandler. Construction activities will include installation of Overhead Catenary System foundations, new traffic signals, streetcar system conduits, station platforms, and other infrastructure upgrades. Both the Woodward overpass at I-75 and I-94 should be completed by late fall 2015.
  • Penske Technical Center: The design/build team of Turner/3LK/ABE/RNL will complete design and begin construction on the Technical Center located along Woodward Avenue between Custer and Bethune Streets where the streetcar vehicles will be stored and maintained. This facility should be completed and ready to accept vehicles for final assembly by late 2015.

If the history of the M-1 is any indication winter’s construction will be a well-oiled endeavor. The first five months of construction were already a smooth operation.


“We made significant progress over the past five months, due in part to great weather. Working outside in the winter requires a different approach,” said Childs. “Depending on the temperature and overall conditions, we shift our priorities toward work that is manageable in cold weather.” Childs said that work will include continued construction on freeway overpasses and underground utility relocation.

The North End neighborhood between W. Grand Blvd. and Bethune will see the M-1 partnering with Michigan Department of Transportation, DTE Energy, the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department and the Detroit Public Lighting Department on underground utility work and bridge reconstruction, including the initiation of storm/sewer work, on construction.

Those partnerships will include:

  • In Downtown, underground work for traffic signal and light pole installations will occur along with drainage installation.
  • In Midtown, DTE Energy duct bank work will continue along with other utility relocation activities. Poles, manholes and concrete will also be installed.
  • In the North End, water main installations will take place.
  • MDOT reconstruction work on the Woodward Ave. overpass over I-75 and I-94 will continue.

With memories of last year’s 15-degree weather caused by the Polar Vortex, keeping warm is no laughing matter. The risk is taken seriously, in case history repeats itself.


“Our protocol ensures the dedicated crew members who work in the cold are protected should the weather become too severe,” Childs said. “The safety of our crew is an overriding priority. Simply, if the cold is extreme, we won’t work that day. However, we don’t anticipate an impact to our overall schedule, since we accounted for these situations when we developed our timeline for completion in late 2016.”

detroit-regional-news-hub-detroitWoodward Ave. north of Grand Circus Park will still have the restricting orange barrels in place all winter long. Construction zones won’t be exempt from plowing. All of Woodward will be plowed in accordance with state and city policies.

The last year has seen quite a bit of progress as areas like the crossroads of Larned, Congress, Monroe, Michigan, Fort, State/Gratiot, Grand River and Park/Witherell as well as Adams, Mack (MLK Jr.), Forest, Warren and Grand Blvd where slowed down due to the M-1’s creation.

In addition, those living or working along the 3.3 mile-stretch have their say. There were nearly 3,000 interactions with those stakeholders last year. This winter that trend will continue. Anyone who works, lives, or has any stake in the areas in which the M-1 is being built will continue to have the M-1 RAIL External Relations Team. Those interested can visit the Woodward Corridor to make themselves and their voices known. Community outreach meetings will also be announced early in 2015.

A version of this post originally appeared on DetroitUnspun and is used here with permission. 

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