Detroit's $22 million ferry and Great Lakes cruise-ship terminal will help revitalize the area economy and is another fruit of the federal economic stimulus program, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said Monday.
LaHood, U.S. Sens. Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow, Reps. John Dingell and Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick and Michigan Transportation Director Kirk Steudel toured the facility. It will be fully operating next summer.
The passenger terminal and public dock on the Detroit River is getting $7.1 million in federal stimulus funds.
The project wouldn't be moving ahead as is without congressional approval of President Barack Obama's economic recovery plan, said LaHood, who thanked the Democratic lawmakers flanking him at a riverfront news conference.
"It's not an easy thing to vote for spending $700 billion, but it's working," he said.
The project consists of a two-story headquarters on the Detroit River near the Renaissance Center and a 200-foot-by-25-foot offshore wharf serving cruise ships, ferries and water taxis connecting to nearby Windsor, Ontario, and other sites along the river.
Plans have been on the drawing board for a decade, but officials didn't agree on a site until 2004.
It's part of a series of Detroit riverfront developments that gained momentum in 2007 with the opening of the Tri-Centennial State Park and the opening of 2 1/2 miles of what is to be a 3 1/2-mile Detroit RiverWalk from downtown east to the Belle Isle park bridge.
Michigan Transportation Director Kirk Steudel said the wharf and terminal will reinforce proposed light-rail and high-speed train service in spurring redevelopment of the region.
Levin, a former Detroit City Council president, said the project marks the culmination of more than half a century of efforts to open Detroit's shoreline to the public.
"What we're witnessing is the renewal of this riverfront," he said.
Earlier Monday, LaHood met with Ford Motor Co. officials. He's taking part in a series of briefings Monday and Tuesday on U.S. safety technology programs at Ford, General Motors Co. and Chrysler Group LLC.
"We got to ride the new Taurus," LaHood told Dingell. "Great car. They're back in the business, I'd say."
On Tuesday, LaHood is scheduled to address the Detroit Economic Club to defend the stimulus plan.