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Transportation jobs are going to be a key theme in Congressman Gary Peters' (D. MI-14) U.S. Senate campaign:

Detroiters should start preparing now for the jobs that will be created through infrastructure projects, including the M1 Rail, Ann Arbor to Detroit commuter rail and reconstruction on I-94 and I-75, U.S. Rep Gary Peters said today.

Peters said he wanted the word out now on the jobs because many require some form of post-secondary education, from eight weeks of training for welding jobs, through four-year degrees.

“Contractors may say there aren’t enough skilled people in that local area to actually work, and they look outside,” Peters said. “I want to make sure the people working on those projects are from the city of Detroit. If we’re bringing federal money into the state of Michigan, I want people from the state of Michigan working on those projects. And if those projects are in the city of Detroit, I want Detroiters working on those projects.”

The transportation jobs summit, held today at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers’ Local 58 near downtown Detroit, was the icebreaker for talks on Detroit adding the role of international transportation hub to its brand. Peters said the move could help significantly in economic revitalization for the area. - Detroit Free Press, 7/29/13

More below the fold.

Here's a little background info:

U.S. Rep. Gary Peters, who will run for a U.S. Senate seat next year, addressed the Southern Wayne County Regional Chamber’s Legislative Forum Monday morning. Photo by E.L. Conley
He supports the New International Trade Crossing project, under which the Canadian government will build a second bridge between the two countries a few miles south of the Ambassador Bridge, but added the work shouldn’t end when the new span welcomes its first customer.

The rail tunnel under the Detroit River linking the two nations also needs a severe overhaul, if not a new underground passage strictly for cargo railcars. The existing rail tunnel, he added, could be retrofitted to carry high-speed passenger railcars between the countries.

“We’re smack dab in the middle of one of the most powerful economic regions in the world,” Peters said, referring to a circle that includes Chicago and Toronto as well as the Great Lakes.

Peters also lauded the proposed M-1 rail project, which will run light rail down Woodward Avenue to link Detroit’s Midtown and New Center areas, but added he hopes it eventually takes riders much farther.

‘Hopefully, it will run all the way to Pontiac and Macomb County and Detroit Metro Airport,” he said. “Everywhere you look, this is a magnet for economic development. - The News Herald, 7/30/13

Peters isn't the only optimistic about the jobs that could be created in Detroit under this transportation project:

Peters says the ultimate goal is to take advantage of Metro Detroit's strategic location to make it "an international economic and transportation hub." He and others predict the projects will create thousands of jobs, though they admit any hard numbers are still estimates at this point.

Michael Richard is with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 58 in Detroit, which hosted the summit. He says there shouldn’t be a big problem filling those immediate electrical and communications jobs with local workers--but they're looking toward the future.

“We’ve got the members right now that live in the city to man the jobs. Our big thing is increasing that, and making sure that 10-15 years down the road we maintain that level," Richard says. He notes it's important there's a mindset shift needed to emphasize that jobs in the skilled trades are good career paths--and that training for them is a form of higher education.

The six projects include: the new international bridge connecting Detroit and Windsor; the M-1 streetcar line down Woodward Avenue in Detroit; and upgrades to the Detroit Intermodal Freight Terminal. - Michigan Radio, 7/29/13

Peters turned to Cleveland's eight-mile light rail line five years ago as a prime example to make his case:

A recent report showed $4.3 billion has been invested along the Cleveland line that connected two central locations already on solid economic footing, similar to Detroit’s downtown and midtown districts. This stems from new businesses, housing and restaurants that develop around the stops along the transit system.

But, the Woodward streetcar line “won’t be successful unless it goes all the way to Pontiac,” he said, referring to current plans to construct a bus rapid transit line along the entire Woodward corridor.

Gov. Rick Snyder signed legislation last year that established the 10-member Regional Transit Authority that has the goal of developing a regional transportation system, including bus rapid transit along Woodward, which would connect to the streetcar line in Detroit, and M-59. The buses would have the capability to bypass traffic with designated traffic signals and would likely have their own designated lanes of travel. - The Oakland Press, 7/29/13

Detroit-based nonprofit Transportation Riders United stated that metro Detroit spends less on than every other region equal in size or smaller.  Metro Detroit spends $87 per capita whereas the national average spent by metro regions is $292 per capita.  Peters believes there is enough momentum to get this infrastructure project going:
U.S. Rep. Gary Peters
And, when people see the economic impact the Woodward streetcar project in Detroit generates, he expects there will be more support and a push to expand the system regionwide.

“I think people will see how it works (as) a catalyst for regional development,” he said. “And that’s our goal. This will only work if it’s regional. The only way it works is everybody’s got to be a part of it.”

He added, one immediate benefit will be the number of construction jobs  created to build the needed infrastructure.

That number could vary, said Naheed Huq, community and economic development manager for SEMCOG, a regional planning agency. According to a recent report from the agency, six major infrastructure projects — including the proposed widening and reconstruction of I-75 from 8 Mile Road to M-59 — in the coming years could generate 7,000 jobs annually. - The Oakland Press, 7/29/13

I'm all for investing in infrastructure, especially when it comes to public transportation.  I also want to see Detroit succeed and these commuter rails are excellent projects.  When Peters becomes Senator, he'll be in a better position to help secure more federal funding for public transportation and continue to help the city thrive.  If you would like to get involved with Peters campaign, you can do so here:

Originally posted to pdc on Tue Jul 30, 2013 at 07:39 PM PDT.

Also republished by In Support of Labor and Unions, The Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party, and Motor City Kossacks.

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