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Extension a good sign for Detroit light rail plans

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Transit advocates in Detroit are happy that a proposal for light rail along Woodward Avenue is still alive.

Federal, state, and city officials had nixed the plan late last year in favor of a Bus Rapid Transit system.

But after pushback from the line’s private backers, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood gave them a deadline to put forth a “feasible” plan.

This week, LaHood extended that deadline about a month. He also told The Detroit News that he's "still optimistic" about the project.

Megan Owens, director of the transit advocacy group Transportation Riders United, says the current proposal is for a shortened line serving Detroit’s downtown—but that’s ok.

“Light rail, or streetcars, can not only provide a great transit option for getting around the downtown-Midtown-New Center areas--but can also be a great way to boost re-development in those communities,” Owens said.

The extension also gives state lawmakers time to move bills to form a regional transit authority in southeast Michigan.

Such an authority is a key condition for federal transit aid to Metro Detroit.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Radio in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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