Streetcar Construction Starts in October
On-going engineering work continues to save millions of dollars. And anti-streetcar group has given up trying to stop the starter line.
Not a single track has been laid, but final engineering work has already reduced the utilities relocation bill on the Milwaukee Streetcar project by over $1 million. During a streetcar task force meeting Friday morning project consultants Tim Clancy of The Concord Group and Ashley Booth of HNTB detailed their firms’ work on negotiating with the utilities and procuring the vehicles.
More work between the engineering team and We Energies has been finalized, and more than $1 million reduction in costs was realized from minor route modifications as well as swapping E. Wells St. for E. Kilbourn Ave. and relocating north-bound tracks to N. Jackson St. from N. Van Buren St.
Now that the route is locked in, pending expected federal approval, design work is beginning on the overhead contact system. That work is expected to be completed by November, with contracts for construction of the system awarded in January 2016. Construction would start in April and be completed by February 2018. Following final testing, the general public could start riding the system in July 2018.
Bids have been received for the streetcar vehicles. The consulting team declined to identify how many or who the bidders are. They did announce that they intend to award the contract in September, following final review and interviews with the bidding teams. Once the specifications of the winning bidder’s vehicles are known, planning will commence for the construction of the Operations and Maintenance Facility. That facility is planned to be built underneath Interstate 794.
The lakefront extension of the streetcar to the Henry Maier Festival Grounds and proposed The Couture is also undergoing survey work currently. That extension was approved with the starter line, but will be constructed later than the starter line because of the engineering work still required.
Utilities Cost Issue
Due to a change in state law inserted by Rep. Dale Kooyenga (R-Brookfield) in the last budget bill, Milwaukee’s streetcar project will cost significantly more than many of its peers. The change mandates that any cities that build urban rail transit system projects must pay for all necessary utility relocation, unlike any other public works project in Wisconsin. The city is fighting this issue in court, but a decision could be years away. Meanwhile, the utilities continue to operate rent free under city streets all across the state.
The initial estimated cost of utilities relocation was in excess of $70 million. Through engineering work that cost was reduced by nearly $50 million to $22.7 million at the time of project approval, below the projected budget figure of $26.5 million for this. When approved in February, the cost for both the starter line and lakefront extension were budgeted at $123.9 million.
In December 2014 Mayor Tom Barrett said “I am 100 percent confident that number is going to come down by millions of dollars.” It looks like he was right.
It’s important to note that just because the utilities cost continues to come down doesn’t mean the final project will cost less. Other estimated costs of the project could increase due to unforeseen circumstances. The city could also alter the plans to improve the project in other ways (a more significant station at Cathedral Square Park on Kilbourn has been discussed). The project budget does also include a $4 million contingency fund.
State Budget Impact
An amendment was tacked into the state budget (again by Rep. Kooyenga) that could make it much more difficult for the city and county to partner their transit systems. While the intention from the mayor’s office has always been to explore paying the county transit system to operate the streetcar system, many seem to think it’s just an attempt to get the county to pay for it. This includes Common Council candidate and county supervisor Mark Borkowski who introduced legislation that would have prevented MCTS from coordinating with the city on the streetcar project.
The law authored by Kooyenga would require the city to reimburse the county for any expenses related to operation or accommodation of the streetcar, including “the forfeiture of any revenue.” While I can’t see the county sending the city a bill for this, the language does seem to open the door to the county billing the streetcar for any decline in revenue resulting from a reduction in transit system ridership.
While it’s not law yet, don’t expect Governor Scott Walker to use the veto pen on this budget amendment.
The petition to have a referendum to have another referendum on the streetcar is back, but with a notable change. The anti-streetcar group’s new petition specifically exempts streetcar projects approved before July 1st, meaning the group is no longer attempting to shut down the starter system, but is instead focusing only on potential future extensions.
As was the case last time, 31,500 signatures must be collected within a 60 day window. If they’re collected it would trigger a referendum on whether to enact a law requiring that a referendum must be held to approve any city-financed “rail transit system” construction costs in excess of $10 million. In short, it’s a referendum on having future referendums.
Urban Milwaukee Streetcar Coverage
- The Strange Politics of Anti-Streetcar-ites – Bruce Murphy – June 18th, 2015
- Anti-Streetcar Petition Drive Fails – Bruce Murphy – March 5th, 2015
- Streetcar Signing Is Quite a Celebration – Michael Horne – February 13th, 2015
- Milwaukee Streetcar Approved – Jeramey Jannene – February 10th, 2015
- Who’s Lobbying for the Streetcar – Bruce Murphy – February 5th, 2015
- Will Streetcar Help the Inner City? – Bruce Thompson – February 4th, 2015
- City Attorney Says Streetcar Petitions Might be Moot – Bruce Murphy – January 30th, 2015
- Millennials And The Streetcar – Bruce Thompson – January 27th, 2015
- Streetcar Responses Show Wide Support – Jeramey Jannene – January 22nd, 2015
- Streetcar Approved, but Held – Jeramey Jannene – January 21st, 2015
- Koch-Funded Group Backs Anti-Streetcar Drive – Bruce Murphy – January 20th, 2015
- Streetcar Backers Say They Have the Votes – Jeramey Jannene – January 20th, 2015
- Who is Funding the Anti-Streetcar Effort? – Bruce Murphy – January 20th, 2015
- Will Anti-Streetcar Referendum Succeed? – Bruce Murphy – January 9th, 2015
- The Story Behind the Streetcar Referendum – Michael Horne and Bruce Murphy – January 8th, 2015
- Council Delays Streetcar Until January – Jeramey Jannene – December 16th, 2014
- Committee Takes No Action on Streetcar – Jeramey Jannene – December 10th, 2014
- Committee Approves Milwaukee Streetcar – Jeramey Jannene – December 9th, 2014
- RACM Approves Tax Funding for Streetcar – Michael Horne – December 8th, 2014
- How to Sell the Streetcar – Michael Horne – November 28th, 2014
- Next Stops for the Streetcar – Michael Horne – November 24th, 2014
- Barrett Moving Forward with Streetcar – Jeramey Jannene – November 18th, 2014
- Who Will Be Streetcar Operator – Michael Horne – May 8th, 2014
- A Streetcar Named Cooperation? – Dave Reid – April 27th, 2014
- How a Streetcar Spurs Development – Angie Schmitt – November 3rd, 2013
- Streetcar Social – Michael Horne – September 12th, 2013
- Mayor Says Streetcar is a “Trojan Horse” – Michael Horne – April 17th, 2013
- Whoops, We Changed Our Mind – Dave Reid – September 27th, 2012
- Battle of the Bobs: Donovan vs Bauman Streetcar Press Conference – Jeramey Jannene – May 18th, 2012
- Important Hoan Bridge and Milwaukee Streetcar Meetings This Week – Dave Reid – November 14th, 2011
- Milwaukee Streetcar Passes Common Council – Jeramey Jannene – July 26th, 2011
- Keep the Milwaukee Streetcar Moving Forward – Jeramey Jannene – July 8th, 2011
- Milwaukee Streetcar at Apex – Jeramey Jannene – June 16th, 2011
- Milwaukee Streetcar Takes Key Step Forward – Jeramey Jannene – May 6th, 2010
- Milwaukee Streetcar Meeting This Thursday – Jeramey Jannene – October 5th, 2009
- Milwaukee Streetcar Routes Unveiled by Mayor Barrett – Jeramey Jannene – September 21st, 2009
- Milwaukee Streetcar Round-Up – Jeramey Jannene – April 19th, 2009
- Vote for your Favorite Milwaukee Streetcar Route – Jeramey Jannene – March 25th, 2009
- Design Your Own Streetcar Route – Jeramey Jannene – March 23rd, 2009
- Streetcars Coming to Milwaukee – Dave Reid – March 14th, 2009
More about the Milwaukee Streetcar
For more project details, including the project timeline, financing, route and possible extensions, see our extensive past coverage.
- Eyes on Milwaukee: City Has $16 Million Plan For Downtown Plaza - Jeramey Jannene - Mar 10th, 2023
- Transportation: Feds Don’t Select Milwaukee For Streetcar Grant - Jeramey Jannene - Aug 11th, 2022
- Transportation: Art Campaign Highlights Milwaukee, New York Teens - Jeramey Jannene - Aug 1st, 2022
- Transportation: City Seeking Grant For Streetcar Convention Center Extension - Jeramey Jannene - Jul 15th, 2022
- The Hop Returns To Full Service - Jeramey Jannene - Jun 21st, 2022
- Transportation: Streetcar Service Goes From Bad To Worse - Jeramey Jannene - May 3rd, 2022
- Transportation: Should National Avenue Rebuild Include Plans for Streetcar? - Jeramey Jannene - Apr 8th, 2022
- Transportation: Maintenance Issues Reduce The Hop’s Schedule - Jeramey Jannene - Apr 4th, 2022
- Transportation: Congress Extends Streetcar Grant - Jeramey Jannene - Mar 16th, 2022
- City Needs Act of Congress Because of Couture-Streetcar Delay - Jeramey Jannene - Feb 1st, 2022
Read more about Milwaukee Streetcar here
Political Contributions Tracker
Displaying political contributions between people mentioned in this story. Learn more.
- November 13, 2017 - Tom Barrett received $400 from Ashley Booth
- October 14, 2015 - Tom Barrett received $400 from Ashley Booth
Eyes on Milwaukee
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One thought on “Eyes on Milwaukee: Streetcar Construction Starts in October”
Hopefully the anti-streetcar knuckledraggers fail. This time they have no paid volunteers and I doubt their members will want to waste their summers standing outside to do this.
Being a moderate conservative myself even if it were to somehow get on the ballot and pass it’s likely that in 2018 the Democrats will regain control of the state and could easily throw enough money to expand the streetcar while the city still can pay under $10.
Either way I recommend harassing these people in public as much as possible. Steal their petitions and run/bike off! Don’t let it pass!