Bus rapid transit line would cost up to $45 million, county estimates

Officials say federal funds would cover 80 percent of project

A rendering of the Milwaukee County East-West Bus Rapid Transit line.
A rendering of the Milwaukee County East-West Bus Rapid Transit line.

Last updated on July 2nd, 2019 at 10:58 am

Milwaukee County officials estimate the proposed bus rapid transit line that would connect downtown Milwaukee to the Regional Medical Center in Wauwatosa would cost between $38 million and $45 million to build.

A rendering of a Bus Rapid Transit line.
A rendering of the Bus Rapid Transit line.

The BRT was proposed last year by Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele as a way to better connect downtown Milwaukee to both the Milwaukee Regional Medical Center in Wauwatosa.

In March, the county launched a website detailing possible routes and infrastructure options for the project, but released its first official cost estimate Wednesday.

Bus rapid transit lines include exclusive lanes for buses separated from street traffic by curbs or other barriers. The buses would also receive traffic signal priority at intersections.

According to the project’s website, recently implemented BRT lines in cities such as Cleveland, Ohio, Kansas City, Mo., and San Antonio, Texas, have led to bus ridership increases of between 25 and 50 percent. The lines have also leveraged between $100 million and $5.8 billion in “transit-oriented development” in those cities, the website claims.

On Wednesday, the county estimated the proposed BRT service would increase MCTS ridership by up to 40 percent and add as many as 9,000 new riders a day by 2035. A federal grant, which the county plans to apply for in August, is expected to cover roughly 80 percent of the project’s overall cost.

Here’s a map of possible BRT routes:

MCTS spokesperson Brendan Conway said the black route line has been more or less finalized — certain small tweaks could be made over the summer to its route through the regional medical center — but the section of the proposed BRT that would run through downtown is still being determined. Three possible routes are represented on the above map. The blue route runs primarily on Wells Street, the red route runs primarily on Wisconsin avenue, and a hybrid route, represented by the green lines, would be a combination of the two.

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Ben Stanley, former BizTimes Milwaukee reporter.

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