Squabbling continues over streetcar funding

Some Milwaukee officials are requesting that $54.9 million in federal funds for a proposed downtown streetcar project be redirected to the ailing Milwaukee County Transit System, although such a request is likely not possible because of federal guidelines for the money.
The request was submitted to U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Milwaukee) by Milwaukee Aldermen Robert Donovan and Joseph Dudzik and Milwaukee County Supervisor Mark Borkowski.
The $54.9 million for the streetcar project is part of $91.5 million in unspent funding awarded to Milwaukee city in 1991. The other $36.6 million is allocated to the county, but has not been used.
“To attempt tackling this streetcar project during an unprecedented economic crisis being felt in Milwaukee and across this nation is insanity,” Donovan said.
According to a letter sent by the U.S. Department of Transportation to Alderman Robert Bauman in June, it is illegal to redirect the federal funds to another transportation project such as the county bus system.
“We’ve argued all these issues,” Bauman said. “What new fact, what new piece of information has come forward to re-debate this issue?”
Barrett said if the streetcar opponents were interested in improving the transit system, they should have made an effort to do so sooner by joining him in asking Gov. Scott Walker not to make cuts to the MCTS budget.
“For many years now, $36 million has been languishing,” Barrett said. “For them to step forward now to say ‘Let’s use this money to improve transit’ defies logic.”
Barrett affirmed his commitment Wednesday to continue with the streetcar project, and said he would work to reduce an estimated $70 million underground utility costs associated with the project.

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