By Edward Cardenas

DETROIT (CBS Detroit) – The sounds of jack hammers pulverizing concrete replaced the roar of engines Monday on Woodward in downtown Detroit as construction began on the M-1 Rail project.

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Crews closed Woodward between Grand Circus Park and Campus Martius to start construction on the 3.3-mile project – which runs from Jefferson to Grand Blvd. – to bring light rail to Detroit.

The start of the project marked the start of an effort to bring a railway system back to Detroit after nearly 50 years.

“This is history,” said Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, who sees the project as the start of something larger. “We ultimately need to build this rail not just  to Grand Blvd., but out to 8 Mile and out to Pontiac.”

Woodward will be closed to traffic between Grand Circus Park and Campus Martius for the next 120 days, with the entire project expected to take about 27 months.

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The $140 million project is “unprecedented in the United States to see public, private and philanthropic get together to help the city of Detroit,” said Roger Penske, M-1 RAIL Chairman of the Board.

Penske added that the rail stops will be an “accelerator for the neighborhoods.”

“We’ve been to other cities to see what happens when you put a rail line like this in. We have commerce around these individual stations,” Penske added.

M-1 will also link together downtown with midtown, along with existing services such as the People Mover.

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“It is really a foundational aspect for what we are doing with a regional transit system,” said Matt Cullen, M-1 RAIL President and CEO. “I think it will make the People Mover more mover more relevant because people will be able to come down from Henry Ford Hospital and Wayne State … and take M-1 down and then use the People Mover as a distributor, which was always the intent.”