Foundation awards $35M to Detroit rail project

Posted on April 14, 2009

The trustees of the Kresge Foundation approved a $35 million investment in the Lower Woodward Light Rail Project (M-1 RAIL), a $120-million transit line that will run along Woodward Avenue from the Detroit River to the New Center area in Detroit.

“There is no more important investment this region can make in its future health and vitality than a regional mass transit system,” says Rip Rapson, president of the Kresge Foundation. “The Woodward line will signal metropolitan Detroit’s willingness to jump-start our region’s aspiration to create such a system. It will connect inner-city residents with job opportunities. It will give rise to more intensive, sensible land-use, tying neighborhood residents to new community development opportunities. It will draw together a variety of private, philanthropic, public and nonprofit activities now in place to promote the retention and attraction of talent in the heart of the city.”

The light rail investment advances multiple strategic objectives on the part of Kresge, a $3.1 billion private foundation that supports communities in the U.S. and around the world by strengthening the nonprofit organizations that serve them. Its 13 planned stations will spur commercial and residential revitalization while linking the city’s major arts and cultural institutions and athletic arenas. Because light rail is a clean transportation source and should reduce the number of cars on area roads, the system is expected to reduce carbon emissions, helping to protect the region’s air quality and its substantial natural resources, according to Kresge.

As with past grants of similar magnitude, the trustees conditioned payments, which will be made over four years, on meeting a series of project benchmarks. “We have every expectation that these benchmarks will be met in a timely way, leading to the beginning of construction this year and the line’s completion in late-2010,” adds Rapson.

The trustees approved ten other grants and one program-related investment to Detroit-area nonprofit organizations. The total, including the light rail investment, was $40.1 million.

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