Downtown streetcar project moves forward

The downtown Milwaukee streetcar project recently took two major steps forward.

The U.S. Department of Transportation awarded $14.2 million in federal funds to Milwaukee to add a lakefront line to the planned downtown streetcar route.

A rendering of the downtown Milwaukee streetcar.
A rendering of the downtown Milwaukee streetcar.

“This critical federal grant for the Milwaukee streetcar will bring thousands of residents and visitors to major attractions and new developments on Milwaukee’s lakefront,” said Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett. “This announcement builds on the positive momentum we’re experiencing in the heart of the city and will also have a significant impact on our neighborhoods, creating hundreds of construction jobs and better connecting neighborhoods to downtown.”

Also, city officials recently selected Pennsylvania-based Brookville Equipment Corp. to build the first four vehicles for Milwaukee’s downtown streetcar system, at a cost of $18.6 million.

Brookville, a 97-year-old transportation equipment manufacturer, is expected to have the first streetcar delivered in 24 months, with subsequent streetcars delivered once a month after that. A fifth vehicle, which will cost about $4 million, could also be ordered.

Brookville built the streetcars being used in Dallas and is currently building the streetcars planned for Detroit, said Michael White, sales manager for the company.

The Milwaukee streetcars will be eight feet,  eight inches wide and 66 feet long, with 32 seats that can hold 150 passengers.

They will feature bike racks and doors on both sides. Empty, the streetcars weigh 79,000 pounds.

The cars have a 30-year life and have a maximum speed of 42 miles per hour that can be increased if the manufacturer chooses to do so.

The city’s contract includes two staff from Brookville who will be on-site in Milwaukee for two years.

Cudahy-based Milwaukee Composites Inc. said it will donate the flooring for the streetcar vehicles.

Brookville is also working with two other Wisconsin companies to manufacture the vehicles: Mosinee-based Arow Global Corp. will make the windows and Franksville-based Fiber-Tech Inc. will make the fiberglass shrouding, White said.

The Milwaukee Common Council earlier this year approved the $124 million downtown streetcar project. The cost to build the system will be paid for with about $65 million in federal funds and about $59 million from tax incremental financing districts.

Through October, $8.8 million has been spent on the project.

Construction of the streetcar system is expected to begin in the spring. Some utility relocation work already has begun.

Design work for the main downtown line is about 90 percent complete. The line is expected to be operational in 2018.

The lakefront line is expected to open eight or nine months later and will be coordinated with the opening of The Couture, a $122 million, 44-story, 302-unit luxury apartment tower planned at the site of the Downtown Transit Center at 909 E. Michigan St.

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