Detroit is stuck in federal funding hell. They want to spend public and private funds to build a new light rail line down Woodward. Now this would be no big deal usually but since they want to get federal funding as a match later, they are being asked to go through the environmental process that requires all new starts projects to follow NEPA requirements.
Now this is a demonstration of what is wrong with the federal process. It discourages transit agencies from seeking alternative sources of funding for a first line and ensures that lines will take a really really long time to build as the city waits for federal approval. An example I always give is the fact that the Seattle Streetcar (local funding) and Charlotte light rail line (federal funding) opened at approximately the same time in 2008. Yet Seattle began as an idea in 2005 and Charlotte before 1998.
Second is that a huge environmental document must be completed to build a streetcar for a street that once had a streetcar on it before it was ripped out. This seems arbitrary and un-necessary to me. If there is an environmentally sensitive area along the line then please do a study to make sure the impacts aren't great, but if we're talking about going down the center of a street, let's stop pretending like an environmental assessment is anything more than consultant money.