Proposed bus rapid transit line plans move forward

Milwaukee County Board endorses plan

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

The Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors endorsed a route of the proposed east-west bus rapid transit line and approved project financing plans for the estimated $45 million project last week.

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

The county will seek $36 million in grant money from the Federal Transit Administration for the project and commit $7.8 million locally, according to plans submitted by the county Department of Transportation to the board.

Plans for the bus line include a fixed route on dedicated street lanes that would connect the Milwaukee Regional Medical Center and Milwaukee County Research Park in Wauwatosa to downtown Milwaukee. The buses would also be outfitted with technology that would give them traffic signal priority at intersections.

The bus line was proposed last year by Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele as a way to better connect downtown Milwaukee with Wauwatosa. Plans for the rapid transit line were endorsed by the City of Wauwatosa in June and the City of Milwaukee in July.

Milwaukee County Transit System spokesperson Brendan Conway said approval from the County Board will make the county’s application for FTA grant money stronger.

The county began planning and preliminary engineering studies for the BRT project in February. Public information meetings about the project were held in April.

Project leaders plan to submit an application for a FTA grant in the next five weeks to pay for 80 percent of the estimated $45 million project. Counties must bear at least 20 percent of the cost of implementation to receive consideration for an FTA grant.

Conway said once the application for federal funding is submitted this fall, the county will likely spend a year or so performing engineering studies and working with municipal leaders in Wauwatosa and Milwaukee to develop more detailed plans for the bus line. If the FTA awards the grant, the county plans to begin construction in 2018 with plans to begin service in 2019.

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Ben Stanley, former BizTimes Milwaukee reporter.

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