Michael Horne
Plenty of Horne

State Making Little Progress on Improving Train Shed

Gov. Walker turned down federal money that could have funded federally-mandated improvements required for downtown train station.

By - May 23rd, 2013 10:15 am
The train shed is the last part of the Milwaukee Intermodal Station that needs to be rebuilt, but due to the loss of Wisconsin's HSR funds the project has been delayed for some time now. Photo by Dave Reid.

The train shed is the last part of the Milwaukee Intermodal Station that needs to be rebuilt, but due to the loss of Wisconsin’s HSR funds the project has been delayed for some time now. Photo by Dave Reid.

Milwaukee’s ambitiously named “Milwaukee Intermodal Station” lands rail passengers inside a 1960’s shed that one would never confuse with the Gare du Nord.

The state is under federal orders to improve the station to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act provisions, and former Governor Jim Doyle got $20 million to do so. Some preliminary engineering work — like punching holes in the train shed — was undertaken.

But Gov. Scott Walker turned down the $20 million in federal funding (part of the $800+ million high speed rail grant) that was dedicated to meeting the federal requirements, and decided to go it his way, with a $15 million idea, and appealed to the feds to exempt the state from its provisions.

But the Walker administration never got around to doing any work on the station, missing a federal deadline in February 2012 that would have provided the state with a grandfather clause, allowing it to providing for improved access, but not at the level of later, stricter mandates.

Meanwhile, for the ninth time in the past decade, passenger train ridership in Milwaukee has set a record, with or without Walker, but little has been said about finishing the remodeling of the train station, which was dedicated in 2007 after an extensive cosmetic remodeling. The station is owned by the State of Wisconsin.

Wisconsin Department of Transportation spokesperson Brock Bergey offers this terse explanation of the status of the train shed project: “WisDOT continues to support intercity travel options by improving passenger rail service at the Milwaukee Intermodal Station. The department is working with federal, state, local and private partners to design and build a new passenger concourse. The project involves reconstructing boarding platforms and remodeling the train shed. This will improve accessibility and efficiency, while providing a modern-day boarding area for passengers.”

Bergey says nothing about any appropriations for the project, state or otherwise, or about the federal mandate. My review of  the state budget shows no item for the train station in the transportation budget or the state building program, not even a dime to patch the holes in the roof.

Spaces and Traces Tour Takes Shorewood

For the second time in its 32 year history, the Historic Milwaukee Spaces and Traces Tour went beyond the city limits, this time to explore the Village of Shorewood, the only Milwaukee County community other than Milwaukee to border both Lake Michigan and the Milwaukee River. The one-day event took place Saturday, May 18th and drew many hundreds of people, judging from lines outside some of the featured residences. Although a few public buildings were included on the tour, such as Shorewood High School, Hubbard Park and the town dump (a.k.a. Shorewood Department of Public Works), the draw was in the nine private residences open that day.

Shorewood, the Village, was founded in 1900 as an early streetcar suburb, and is well on its way to becoming one again, what with the considerable development along N. Oakland Ave. now underway. About a quarter of a century ago, village officials, mindful of the aging housing stock, began stiffening building code enforcement. Most notably, homes offered for sale had to be brought up to code. This was somewhat controversial, particularly among those who had substandard homes for sale, but time has shown the village’s strategy to be sound, and the community abounds with well-tended homes, many of them rather modest.

The stars of the Spaces and Traces tour, however, tended toward the magnificent, along that select strip of human settlement known as “the even-numbered dwellings of N. Lake Drive.” You know the ones I’m talking about — they have fabulous views of Lake Michigan.

This is particularly true of the “James M. and Katherine Walsh House,” at 4430 N. Lake Drive, which was owned by UW-Milwaukee for a number of years, where it served as home for a revolving door series of chancellors. The home quite nearly went into the lake, and efforts are underway to restore the bluff with native plants. However, a boxelder remains atop the bluff on the northeast corner of the property, leading one to wonder about the strength of the owner’s commitment.

Another fascinating dwelling is the Eschweiller-designed “Dr. Charles E. & Laura Uihlein Albright House” at 3534 N. Lake Drive, which Ms. Albright referred to as a “villa.” This was simply modesty on the part of Ms. Albright, since few villas are as well-built as this home. Moreover, its size is more suggestive of a village than a villa.

Laura Uihlein Albright lived in the home until her death at 89 in 1967. An auction catalog with the ponderous title “The Charles Edgar Albright and Laura Uihlein Albright Collection of Fine Arts, Decorative Arts, Silver, Linens, Oriental Rugs, Glassware, Antiques, Porcelains, and Furbishings” [Yes! Furbishings!] accompanied the auction of the home’s contents in 1968, perhaps the greatest such sale ever seen in this community. The Albrights’ grandson, Walter David Tallmadge, who some suspect in the death of his mother in a 1958 Oconomowoc fire, is 80 years old and has been imprisoned in California since 1997 on a 265-year term for molesting his daughter and her baby-sitter for a number of years. Numerous tax warrants from the state of Wisconsin remain unpaid, and his former wife (the mother of the daughter he molested) had to go to court to collect her support payments. A court gave her and her daughter and the babysitter ownership of Tallmadge’s real estate, which was valued in the millions.

FUN FACT: The first Spaces and Traces tour outside the city was West Allis in 2002.

Scene on the Street

Workers attach tables to the exterior wall of Finks. Next up -- what to do about that leaning wall in the patio? Engineer Scott Johnson probably has a master plan, and he will get to it in short order.

Workers attach tables to the exterior wall of Finks. Next up — what to do about that leaning wall in the patio? Engineer Scott Johnson probably has a master plan, and he will get to it in short order. Photo by Michael Horne.

Finks bar at the southwest corner of N. Water St. and N. Humboldt Ave. (a rare intersection of two “North” streets), installed outdoor seating attached right to the exterior of the modest building, on Tuesday, May 22nd. Improvements to the patio are also promised, and desperately needed, since a wall there is collapsing. … Mai Thai restaurant on E. Brady Street is also finally getting its new facade, after a month or so of plywood and cinderblock siding. The historic building will look quite attractive once it is restored to its 19th century storefront configuration.

What happened to the swing?

Keith Hayes of Beintween is the driving force behind the immensely popular swings that he and volunteers hung along the Marsupial Bridge Media Garden at the south end of the Holton Viaduct. He thought he would expand the project by hanging a swing on the other end of the bridge, where the city is finally creating an access between the bridge and N. Commerce St. However, the city workers cut down the swing. All that remains is an inner-tube sign stitched to a chain link fence on the site which reads “THX JULILLY,” (although the “Y” has since fallen apart.) The inscription and swing were dedicated to Julilly Kohler, in tribute to her being “a social pioneer,” as Hayes puts it, adding, “Shame on this City, for they have better things to do than subtracting the efforts of those who are paying respect as well as their taxes.”

It was a “gorgeous swing,” Hayes tells Urban Milwaukee, saying, “I’m confident we’ll get it back.”

Dream Bikes Celebrates

Dream Bikes takes to the streets in celebration of its second anniversary. Photo by Michael Horne.

Dream Bikes takes to the streets in celebration of its second anniversary. Photo by Michael Horne.

Although Bike to Work Week is over, bicycle-related events continue apace in the city. Tuesday, May 21st was the second anniversary of Dream Bikes, appropriately located at 2021 N. Martin Luther King Drive. “Dream Street 2013” recognized the accomplishments of the non-profit Dream Bikes, and the event was sponsored  by the Boys and Girls Club. Dream Bikes uses micro-finance and other strategies to get bikes in the hands and helmets on the heads of those who need them, but could not afford them. The guest speaker was Michael Cudahy, Jr., a bicycle enthusiast.  The shop is immense, yet occupies only a portion of the solid building in which it is located. A visit to the surrounding Brewers Hill neighborhood shows numerous improvements underway there as well, in a wonderful neighborhood that suburbanites probably imagine is still hell.


The Mayor’s Design Awards will be presented in a ceremony at the UW- Milwaukee School of Architecture and Urban Planning, 2131 E. Hartford Ave. on Thursday, May 23rd. Events begin at 4:30 with a reception. A one-hour program begins under the fast-paced leadership of Dean Robert Greenstreet, who hands out the certificates as speedily as a parking checker writing tickets on a snow emergency day. The reception continues at 6:30 p.m. See you there.

One thought on “Plenty of Horne: State Making Little Progress on Improving Train Shed”

  1. Molly Booth says:

    Thanks for the B-Hill shout out!

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