Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors
Press Release

Supervisor Alexander, Borkowski Urge Streetcar Opponents Not To Give Up

Board Members Say to Change the Plan or Return the Funds

By - Mar 10th, 2014 01:10 pm

Milwaukee County Supervisor Deanna Alexander said today that federal funding for the streetcar was dedicated for that use only and can only be reallocated by an act of the U.S. Congress. Alexander said she has had discussions with both City of Milwaukee Ald. Bob Donovan, who opposes the streetcar, and Ald. Robert Bauman, who supports it.

“I’ve been told that to use federal funding for local streets and pothole repair would be unprecedented. I agree that while that is the preferred option and what we need, it would be unlikely,” Alexander said. “Laws get changed all the time, so I don’t think it is out of the question, but I do think it would take a tremendous effort on the part of local officials.”

Supervisor Mark Borkowski said the entire streetcar project is “a massive waste of taxpayer money,” and he added that the project should be scrapped and that the federal money should be returned.

“Why are we building this thing?” Borkowski said. “No one wants it except the Mayor, and it goes nowhere. It ultimately will prove to be a massive waste of resources.”

Alexander agrees with those who think the streetcar is “misguided” and urges the public to not give up hope on moving for a more sensible plan. “Gov. Scott Walker has issued a statement in response to requests for intervention on the streetcar issue, indicating that he will support whichever position the Mayor and the County Executive agree to,” Alexander said.

“I think there is great room for agreement and forward movement if those officials, with the Governor’s support, could explore options for an alternate transit plan that would actually address some of Milwaukee’s most pressing issues like lack of access to jobs and poor minorities being stuck on an economic island. Perhaps Congress will recognize that the streetcar to nowhere is a waste of resources when local leaders agree on an alternative plan for use of the funding.

“If the current streetcar plan could be altered to best use dollars allocated for transit to actually address our issues, I might be able to support it,” Alexander said. “However, if we don’t have a viable long-term plan for fast and pragmatic transit that actually helps the people who depend on transit the most, and if that plan will not have the necessary funding for long-term maintenance and operation, I will support declining the federal funding.”

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One thought on “Supervisor Alexander, Borkowski Urge Streetcar Opponents Not To Give Up”

  1. Bill Sell says:

    Without direct responsibility to modernize our downtown, make it more inviting, encourage development, and replace parking lots with actual commerce, it is easy to understand suburban supervisors who may want more transit for their neighborhoods.

    Supervisors Borkowski and Alexander are perched in the far northwest and southwest corners of the county. I understand the view; I lived in Hales Corners once upon a time and when transit died I hitchhiked.

    He has said in the past that he is only interested in transit as it affects his constituents, which (he also said) is zero. And I can understand that perspective. But the County is more than a suburb. Better he look after his constituents by finding a way to collaborate with the rest of the County.

    The problem with shifting the streetcar money is that it is capital (not operations) and is set by federal law to build a streetcar in Milwaukee. Sympathy for the plight of those who hate the Streetcar is not to be found in Washington where the law can be changed. But let’s say someone does get this shift in priorities accomplished. What would $54 million do for MCTS?

    That money if used for operations could be used to give free rides for one year; to give $1 rides for 2 years – an appealing thought – but once the money goes out the tailpipe of the buses, it’s gone. Better to invest it wisely, as other cities have done. Streetcars promote development (which our downtown needs) which in turn attracts more businesses and pedestrians who enjoy the pleasures of city life, and who is turn attract more businesses; and those shops want transit – more people less space wasted parking cars.

    Supervisor Borkowski may be the best Supervisor Franklin ever had, but if he is trying to speak for Bay View, Downtown, Riverwest and the East and South Sides he is lame; he is out of touch when he says “No one wants it except the Mayor, and it goes nowhere. It ultimately will prove to be a massive waste of resources.”

    The concept of investment is easily lost when you dislike the investment (I have my list, you can be sure; and many people do), so a democratic process sorts out our needs. The venue for this is the Common Council of the City. The Streetcar is enormously popular in my area of the County; and probably less so in the suburban areas of the County. No surprise. We look to the Streetcar for the same patterns of development that we can see in other mid-sized cities once with anemic transit systems. St. Louis had the same discussion we are having now. The Streetcar was not invented by Milwaukee; we are, in fact, laggards in bringing this technology to Milwaukee.

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