City alderman wants to extend deadline for streetcar operator RFP

Would give Milwaukee County more time to apply

Streetcar rendering on St. Paul.

Milwaukee Alderman Tony Zielinski wants to extend the deadline for the request for proposal to operate the downtown streetcar by two months to give Milwaukee County more time to put its application together.

Streetcar rendering St. Paul
Streetcar rendering St. Paul

Earlier this month, a Milwaukee County committee voted to submit a proposal to have the Milwaukee County Transit System, which currently operates 411 buses in the county, operate the streetcar.

The full County Board will vote on the measure Thursday and County Executive Chris Abele will then weigh in. Abele has said if MCTS is selected, the group will need to partner with an experienced individual or organization to operate the streetcar.

Proposals from prospective streetcar operators are due to the city by April 4. Zielinski wants to extend the deadline to June 5.

“MCTS is a local company and I feel they should have a shot,” Zielinski said. “We’re better off going local.”

By not deciding to pursue the RFP until March 8, MCTS has already missed a meeting held by the city and is now up against a tight deadline.

“Once it became clear absolutely no county dollars would be spent, they decided to pursue this,” Zielinski said. “Personally, I don’t think waiting a few months to make a decision will make that much of a difference.”

When the city issued the request for proposal on Feb. 17, Ghassan Korban, commissioner of the Department of Public Works, who is heading the streetcar project for the city, said he was hoping to have an operator in Milwaukee by July or August to work in conjunction with the project development team.

The operator contract would be for six years and three months with an option to renew up to five additional years.

Korban could not immediately be reached for comment. Zielinski’s resolution will be voted on at the March 28 Common Council meeting.

The operator chosen by the city of Milwaukee will operate the $124 million streetcar that will run from the Intermodal Station into the Historic Third Ward, through the east side of downtown and into the Lower East Side neighborhood.

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