The Milwaukee Common Council will consider a resolution next week that calls on the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin to equally apply its ruling that utilities and their ratepayers cannot be held responsible for the costs of moving underground utilities.
The PSC ruled in its final decision on Aug. 29 that utilities companies and their ratepayers cannot be held responsible for the utilities relocation costs for the planned downtown Milwaukee streetcar project.
The 2.1-mile streetcar line is expected to cost about $64.6 million, before utilities relocation costs. About $54.9 million in federal grant funds and $9.7 million in TIF district funds would cover the cost. Some underground utility lines and utility facilities may need to be reinforced or relocated along the streetcar line. At one time the utility companies involved estimated it would cost more than $83 million to move the utilities along the original route, but city officials and the utilities have been working to engineer the project to significantly reduce those costs.
Ald. Robert Bauman argued in a statement today that if We Energies ratepayers don’t have to pay for utility relocation costs for the Milwaukee streetcar project, then ratepayers also should not have to pay for utility relocation costs for any other public works projects in any community.
The Common Council will consider the resolution at its meeting on Sept. 23. The resolution directs the Department of Public Works and the City Attorney’s Office to identify all municipal public works projects that require We Energies to absorb utility relocation costs and to file a petition with the PSC objecting to those utility costs being passed on to We Energies.
“The PSC essentially opened the door for this action with its final decision on Aug. 29,” Bauman said. “If you follow the line of reasoning on the part of the PSC, it should also be unreasonable to require private utilities to pay utility relocation costs associated with other municipal public works projects such as street reconstruction work in other municipalities in the utility’s service area. A major street project in Watertown or Waukesha requiring utility line relocation costs should not affect the pocketbooks of We Energies customers in Milwaukee or Milwaukee County.”