Streetcar project does not receive federal grant for extension to arena

City officials say they will continue to seek more federal funding

Milwaukee Streetcar rendering

The city of Milwaukee did not receive the $20 million federal grant that would have helped extend the downtown streetcar line approximately 1.2 miles to the new Milwaukee Bucks arena site.

A rendering of a streetcar in Milwaukee’s Third Ward.

City officials found out late last week it did not receive the grant it applied for in October 2017 through the U.S. Department of Transportation’s TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) program.

Nearly $500 million in grant funding was awarded to 41 projects nationwide through the TIGER program. More than 64 percent of the projects were awarded to rural projects.

The primary selection criteria for TIGER awards include considerations for safety, state of good repair, economic competitiveness, quality of life and environmental sustainability for each project. Secondary criteria include innovation and partnerships, according to a media release.

This is the second time Milwaukee did not receive TIGER grant funds to extend the streetcar project to the arena site. The grant would have extended the streetcar route on a portion of 4th Street between Juneau and St. Paul avenues.

In October, the city received a $14.2 million TIGER grant that is being used for the lakefront line.

“We’re very optimistic that with operations of the streetcar starting later this year, we’ll be in a strong position to get a federal investment to expand the benefits of the streetcar to more Milwaukee neighborhoods and residents,” said Ghassan Korban, commissioner of the city’s Department of Public Works.

The Common Council approved the $128 million downtown streetcar project in February 2015. Construction on the main line of the downtown Milwaukee streetcar began in April 2017 with the main downtown line expected to be operational this fall. About $69 million of the cost will be paid for with federal funds and $59 million with city funds from tax increment financing districts.

The city does not plan to use TIF money for operations.

In October, Potawatomi Hotel and Casino announced it would be the naming sponsor of the streetcar as part of a $10 million, 12-year deal that includes free rides for the first year.

According to The Milwaukee Streetcar website, a federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) grant has been secured which will pay for approximately 65 percent of the first 18 months of operating costs with the possibility of an extension for an additional 18 months.

The city expects the phase one route will generate approximately 1,850 rides per day and over 595,000 rides per year in the first full year of operations in 2019. Sponsorships and advertising during the first three years will cover the operational costs not covered by the grant, according to the site.

Operations for year four and beyond will be funded through a combination of fare box revenue, advertising, corporate sponsorships, federal funding opportunities, operating agreements with partners and the City of Milwaukee’s parking fund, if needed, according to the site.

Sign up for BizTimes Daily Alerts

Stay up-to-date on the people, companies and issues that impact business in Milwaukee and Southeast Wisconsin

No posts to display