Dave Reid

Alderman Donovan Proposes Delaying the Streetcar Project

By - Jul 19th, 2011 12:52 pm
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A rendering of the streetcar at the intersection of Van Buren and Wells in downtown Milwaukee.

Yesterday, Alderman Bob Donovan called for a referendum to be held before moving forward with the Milwaukee Streetcar project.  A referendum that wouldn’t be held until the Spring primaries on February 21st, 2012.  Making a proposal such as this reminds us that there wasn’t a referendum for the Hoan Bridge reconstruction, the I-94 expansion, or the $810 million (not including utility relocation costs) Marquette Interchange project.  Locally in Alderman Donovan’s district, there wasn’t a referendum for National Avenue’s recent streetscaping project between S. 27th St. (Layton Blvd.) and S. 35th St.  Finally, when the $300 Milwaukee Connector guided bus proposal came up for a vote there were no calls for referendum from Alderman Donovan, in fact he voted  in a straight up and down vote, on the losing side.  But now a smaller, $64 million project, is too big to vote on?  It appears that the standard for its approval is being set higher than for other infrastructure projects, and that the only criteria being used to call for a referendum is that the Milwaukee Streetcar project just might have support of the majority of the Common Council and the Mayor’s office.

Despite Alderman Donovan’s claim that this is about ‘letting the voters decide’, that isn’t the impact his proposal will have.  Citizens may argue that we should have our own vote, and there is certainly a time and place for referendums, while other members of the Common Council may see this as a way to avoid voting on a difficult issue.  Other citizens and maybe even some elected officials might see this as a way to change the route to an inner-city location or to use the money to improve bus service.  But that isn’t what this vote is about.  It is about derailing the Milwaukee Streetcar.

Holding this vote, next year, would jeopardized the current funding.  Milwaukee has had these funds available for transit improvements since 1991, but never before has the potential for the funds to be rescinding been any higher.  It would also insure that Milwaukee misses out on its chance to obtaining TIGER 3 funding and possibly a Livability grant that could become available later this year.  These funds could pay for route extensions to the North, South, and West.  Moving the Milwaukee Streetcar project forward this month is Milwaukee’s best chance to see this kind of service expanded throughout the city.  Waiting until next year serves only one purpose, to derail the Milwaukee Streetcar.

So if you want to see the Milwaukee Streetcar come to Bay View, Bronzeville, Sherman Park, or Lindsay Heights now is the time to support the effort.  Please once again use the form below to pledge your support for the Milwaukee Streetcar Project.

More about the Milwaukee Streetcar

For more project details, including the project timeline, financing, route and possible extensions, see our extensive past coverage.


15 thoughts on “Alderman Donovan Proposes Delaying the Streetcar Project”

  1. GT says:


  2. Doug says:

    This streetcar seems more and more like a waste of money and a white elephant waiting to be built. The advantages over a bus are minimal for the cost and I doubt there are enough people in downtown Milwaukee who will actually ride it. The one benefit I see is connecting the train station to downtown. Aside from that, this thing is going to be nothing more than a slightly more comfortable ride for affluent white people living on the East Side. And even they probally would rather walk and bike this route.

  3. Pesterson Von Grau says:

    Man, this thing has gotten so darn political it stinks. If it gets built and fails to blow people’s minds, then barret is going to be in trouble. That said, if he manages to get Kohl’s downtown, then the streetcar can be largely thanked for it.

    I took the liberty of making a little map showing a proposed Kohl’s HQ location along a streetcar extension:


    Even though it’s just fantasy for now, maybe if enough people see it, it’ll get people talking! Also – you guys might want to consider running a reader contest to photoshop in a mock Kohl’s HQ at various downtown locations, with streetcar included of course. Would be fun, and if the JSOnline picked it up, and Kohl’s employees saw some cool things… then you never know!

  4. Dave Reid says:

    @Doug I take it you didn’t read my article:)

  5. Dave Reid says:

    @Peterson That’s just the world we live in… I like the graphic, though I think you might need to dedicate more space to Kohls…

  6. Pesterson Von Grau says:

    You think? I reckon it depends on how high-rise it would be, and how nutty people get about having parking. They’ve asked for a million square feet which, if it were, say, a 50 story building, could easily fit on that plot with loads of extra room for parking, or even a retail store…. but I’ll save all that for another comment 🙂

  7. Jeff Jordan says:

    Dave; Great article. As usual you are factual and on point.. Those of us that have been to other cities that are blossoming despite the economic downturn, know that progress in the global competition front requires modern urban transportation that links with the major entry points of the city. The connector will eventually, I’m sure, take us to the airport. As planned, it will cover the Intermodal Station.
    As we increasingly recognize the value of walkways and bike lanes, we experience the widening of services like short term bike rental and Zip cars and build an integrated urban transportation system, the sense in all of this will become apparent to even the naysayers.

  8. Dave Reid says:

    @Jeff Thanks. I keep wondering if one big Milwaukee naysayer will actually become a regular streetcar rider… think Victims…:)

  9. Jero says:

    I think there was referendum about freeway expansion in Milwaukee and the expansion was voted down. The Marquette interchange preceded at the request of newly elected Walker in a deal done with newly elected Doyle. Milwaukee was considered too much of an economic engine for the state and non-expansion would hurt the economy.

    Correct me if I am wrong.

  10. Dave Reid says:

    @Jero the last referendum on freeway expansion was in 1974 I believe… (but I94 expansion, the Marquette Interchange rebuild, and recent Hoan work weren’t part of that per se)

  11. MilwaukeeD says:

    We had a referendum on transit already. It was in 2008 and it passed in the City of Milwaukee by large margins (it also passed in Milwaukee County). That referendum asked for an increase in the sales tax and people were still for it.

  12. CJ says:

    How are the referendums approved, or not approved?

  13. Dave Reid says:

    @Cj Alderman Donovan’s amendment to the streetcar legislation was voted down by the common council.

  14. ArmchairZeuss says:

    Does anyone in MKE have a f@&$ing clue what a spineless, visionless idiot Donovan and others like him are? Read Schumaker’s article about David Gordon. His comments about MKE, a town I love, are spot on. No ambition, no vision, no guts, no glory. Doomed to be forever 2nd rate unless we elect better leadership than people like Donovan.

  15. Dave Reid says:

    @ArmchairZeuss As much as I agree that Donovan doesn’t get the big picture for Milwaukee I think we can get that point across with out the language:)

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