PSC attorney says city could incur utility costs for streetcar

The estimated $55.5 million in costs to reroute utility lines to accommodate a downtown Milwaukee streetcar line would likely need to be covered by the city, rather than the utilities, according to a new letter by Wisconsin Public Service Commission general counsel Cynthia Smith.
At least three utilities would face at least $55.5 million for changes to accommodate the streetcar, Smith said.
Wisconsin Electric Power Company accounts for the bulk of that total, as it would face some $45 million to move or modify electric, natural gas and steam lines, while AT&T’s communications lines could face $10 million in modifications.
American Transmission Company could also face costs ranging from $500,000 to $15.4 million depending on the need for corrosion protection for its lines near those powering the streetcar.
Smith wrote a letter saying that the city, rather than the utilities, appears likely to bear the costs for the changes because it has not yet established "adequate health, safety, or public welfare justification" for the streetcar project.
Smith wrote the letter in response to questions over the line’s costs from Sens. Van Wanggaard (R-Racine) and Leah Vukmir (R-Wauwatosa).
"If Milwaukee wants to build a train for its downtown, God bless them. That’s their right as a city," Wanggaard said. "I’m just glad the costs of this initiative won’t be a burden on hardworking Racine County ratepayers."
Wisconsin Energy Corp. spokeswoman Cathy Schulze issued the following statement regarding the matter: “The (utility line relocation cost) estimates that have been put out there are very preliminary. Our engineers are working on this collaboratively with city of Milwaukee engineers. It is possible that the route will be changed. We have extensive lines throughout much of downtown Milwaukee, so it will likely impact us to some extent regardless of where the route lies.”

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