Milwaukee streetcar study moves forward

    The Milwaukee Connector Study Committee this morning approved plans to move forward with an engineering study for the new Milwaukee streetcar route.
    “The vote this morning essentially moves the locally preferred option into the preliminary engineering and environmental documentation stage,” said Jeff Mantes, Milwaukee Department of Public Works commissioner. “Once the Federal Transportation Authority reviews our plans, we’ll be able to move forward into this next phase.”
    During the preliminary engineering phase, the committee will do a more in depth study of the street car route, look more in to utilities, street widths and parking considerations, Mantes said.
    “We’ll start by looking more in to whether it would be more economical to lay the tracks over the top of or do some alterations, and during this phase we also might take a more in depth look at the types of vehicles we’d like to have,” Mantes said.
    Mantes expects this phase to take the committee through the end of the year, at which point the Milwaukee Common Council and the Federal Transit Authority would re-evaluate the plans and decide to move forward again.
    The Connector Study Committee is made up of officials from the City of Milwaukee, Milwaukee County, the Wisconsin Center District and the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce (MMAC).
    The members voted 3-1 in favor of moving the plan forward. A representative from Milwaukee County was the only opposition in the vote.
    The proposed streetcar route would begin at the Milwaukee Intermodal Station, run past the Milwaukee Public Market, through downtown financial district and up to Ogden on the east side.
    Plans to expand the route to University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee to the North West to Marquette University and the stadium would be considered in the future.
    Last year, Congress agreed to split $91.5 million in unused federal funds that had been set aside for transportation in Milwaukee, allocating $54.9 million to the city for the downtown streetcar project and $36.6 million to Milwaukee County to create bus rapid transit service. The city must provide 15 percent in local matching funds for the streetcar project, or about $9 million, so the total budget for the project is $64 million.
    According to Mantes, the committee has also applied for an Urban Livability grant, which if won, could provide them with an additional $25 million dollars. The public match for that grant is an additional $6 million, which would bring the total money available for the project to $96 million with $15 million as publically provided funds, Mantes said.
    The committee expects to find out in June if it will be awarded the grant.
    “If you look at the project as being 100 percent, we’re at around the 10 percent phase,” Mantes said. “Following the preliminary engineering stage we will be at around the 30 percent stage.”
    Mantes hopes the streetcar system will be completed in 2013 to coincide with the high-speed rail proposal from Milwaukee to Madison.
    – BizTimes Milwaukee

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