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Milwaukee Mayor Barrett revises plan to advance streetcar project


Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett this week unveiled a new plan for the city's proposed streetcar system that would build on $2.6 billion worth of downtown development.

The new plan, which the mayor hopes will help advance the streetcar project, adds a line along the city's Lake Michigan lakefront to take advantage of nearby real estate developments and opportunities to expand on that development, according to a press release posted on the Milwaukee Streetcar website.

In addition, the new proposal calls for using non-property tax dollars to add the lakefront line to the previously announced route and covers the potential costs of utility relocation.

The plan, which relies on previously allocated federal dollars and tax incremental financing funds generated by new development near the route, would enable the streetcar operation to begin by 2018, the press release states.

"Milwaukee residents and businesses have demanded a transportation alternative to spur development and provide more options, something most other cities our size are building or already operating," said Barrett. "This starter system will — with future additions to other neighborhoods being planned — provide a modern, attractive way to get around Milwaukee, to and from residences, businesses, cultural institutions and entertainment destinations."

The Milwaukee Common Council must approve the plan, which would use $54.9 million in federal funds already approved and $59 million from tax incremental financing.

Barrett cited the $2.6 billion in completed downtown development from 2005 to 2014, the $980 million currently under construction and the nearly $1.3 billion in proposed downtown investment as a strong sign that Milwaukee needs and can support a streetcar starter system.

Work on the project had been slowed due to state actions that drove up city costs with an "unprecedented requirement" that the city pay for private utility relocations, Barrett said. While the city Monday filed a court appeal of the state action and hopes to reverse the requirement, the new plan allows the city to fund the utility relocations if necessary, he said.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 11/20/2014