Milwaukee City Council Approves $124 Million Streetcar
After years of debate, the proposal to put a streetcar downtown will finally move forward. The Milwaukee City Council has approved a controversial $124 million streetcar connecting downtown and the lower east side.
The cost to relocate the utilities for the streetcar project has been an extremely contentious issue.Initial cost estimates put the relocation expense as high as $70 million. When construction begins on the Milwaukee streetcar, nearly half of that money will come from the city itself.
The city plans to cover that portion with money generated by Tax Incremental Financing or TIF.
Mayor Barrett: Streetcars are more about attracting attention than transportation
The streetcar initiative is Mayor Tom Barretts signature project. Mayor Barrett claims that the project will connect new business development and allow people to move seamlessly around downtown. He also references their popularity and value in major cities, such as Portland. Not to mention, streetcars are quiet, clean, and efficient. Riding on steel rails provides a very smooth ride, on top of having curb bump-outs at stops so there isn’t weaving in and out of traffic, and signal priority to avoid waiting at stop lights.
Streetcar Supporters: It Will Boost Our Economy
Supporters couldnt agree more. Milwaukees downtown area is the thriving center that is home to more than 500,000 people. Supporters of the streetcar project say it will help attract additional development along the route providing a boost to Milwaukees economy. Supporters also argue that the city needs to add rail transit to make it competitive with other cities that are trying to attract a talented workforce.
Streetcar Opponents: Theres a Better Way to Spend the Citys Money
However, not everyone shares that sentiment for Milwaukees future. In a failed effort, two opponents of the proposed plan gathered petition signatures to block the project, arguing that the city has better ways to spend its money than a streetcar, which would only travel along a fixed route for several miles. Many critics of the plan said that public funds would be better suited going to other priorities such as schools and improving our existing bus lines.
Now that the final plan has been greenlit, final engineering will begin immediately, and construction is expected by the end of the year.