Council Okays Streetcar to Bucks Arena
$40 million extension would add .75 miles to route, also connect convention center.
The Milwaukee Streetcar is about to get longer, should the federal government award it a $20 million grant. Following a 11-4 vote by the Milwaukee Common Council, a nearly one-mile extension of the Milwaukee Streetcar has been approved that would connect the route with the new Milwaukee Bucks arena. The extension would also serve as a starting point for connecting the streetcar with Bronzeville and other neighborhoods to the north of Downtown.
The new project would extend the streetcar three-fourths of a mile north, running from the route’s current western terminus at the Milwaukee Intermodal Station at W. St. Paul Ave. and then up N. 4th St. to the new Bucks arena and Live Block at N. 4th St. and W. Juneau Ave. The stop would be partially located in the portion of N. 4th St. that will be permanently closed to traffic as part of the arena project.
The planned line would connect not only the new arena to the system, but would also include a stop at the Wisconsin Center convention center in a new public plaza. That plaza would be created as part of a new development in the surface parking lot at N. 4th St. and W. Wisconsin Ave. The city recently issued a request-for-proposals for the land. A future stop is also planned at the intersection of W. Kilbourn Ave and N. 4th St.
If all goes according to plan, service would begin on the extension in the spring or summer of 2020. Construction on the extension would start following the fall 2017 completion of the final design of the extension.
The extension will look and operate substantially different than the system’s first two phases. Much of the route will be in a dedicated lane on N. 4th St., instead of running with mixed traffic. In addition, a substantial portion of the extension will be built without overhead wires for power. The Brookville-manufactured vehicles can accommodate operating on batteries for portions of the route (they get recharged by wires at the stations) and the city intends to make use of that technology to lower construction costs.
The first phase of the system, connecting the Lower East Side, East Town and Historic Third Ward with the Milwaukee Intermodal Station, is on-track to begin service in 2018. Utility work on the route is currently underway. Construction of the track is set to begin in the coming weeks. Work will occur in phases across the 2.1 mile route.
Concurrently underway is work on the streetcar’s lakefront extension. That spur, approved and fully-funded, will add four-tenths of a mile to the route split across E. Michigan St. and E. Clybourn St. That extension will run from N. Milwaukee St. to the base of the planned The Couture tower at N. Lincoln Memorial Dr. The lakefront extension is anticipated to open after the first phase of the streetcar opens.
Extension Renderings and Maps
- Guideway and Track Elements – $3.4 million
- Stations, Stops and Terminal – $0.5 million
- Sitework and Special Conditions – $14.7 million
- Systems – $3.3 million
- Vehicles – $4.5 million
- Professional Services – $3.5 million
- Contingency – $7.2 million
- Escalation to 2020 Dollars (inflation) – $2.8 million
- Total – $39.9 million
Extension Funding Sources
- Federal – TIGER grant – $20 million
- Local – TID 39 Amendment (Hilton City Center) – $4 million
- Local – TID 41 Amendment (Time Warner Cable/Manpower) – $8 million
- Local – TID 88 Creation (4th/Wisconsin) – $8 million
- Total – $40 million
What’s Next for the Milwaukee Streetcar?
During his stump speeches for the streetcar, Mayor Tom Barrett repeatedly said his goal was to get the first phase in the ground and immediately start working to extend it. His administration has done just that. The initial project approval came with an lakefront extension. Now they’ve secured approval, pending a federal grant, to extend the streetcar to the north. What’s next?
A major extension is in conceptual planning stages to extend the system north into Bronzeville and south into Walker’s Point. The three-and-a-half mile route, which would utilize the N. 4th Street extension, would run from W. North Ave. and N. Dr. Martin Luther King Dr. to S. 1st St. and Greenfield Ave. That extension would roughly double the size of the system.
Should the city fail to receive the federal grant, the city would continue to design the extension using the tax-incremental financing funds.
Streetcar Not As Controversial Anymore?
Observers of the original approval process for the system will remember how many procedural moves were used to attempt to block the system. Those moves, which ultimately caused months of delay, were nowhere to be found today. In a simple up-down vote, council members Robert Donovan, Mark Borkowski, Jim Bohl and Tony Zielinski voted against the project.
Only Borkowski spoke against the matter, perhaps because he wasn’t on the council for the previous battles. Borkowski lamented that “the discussion of whether or not the streetcar will happen, that ship has sailed.” Warning that Milwaukee was becoming a tale of two cities, Borkowski went on to ask: “where is the help, where is the assistance, where is the cooperation for the rest of the city? I’m told that with this development the rest of the city will see benefits. Well I’m not sure of that. But if it does happen, when will it happen? I think it’s dangerous to put all our eggs in one basket, if you will, and realize that we have other, greater challenges in the city as a whole beyond just the downtown. I challenge all of us, the Mayor and all of us Common Council members to remember that the city of Milwaukee is a large city and not just downtown.”
For more project details, including the project timeline, financing, route and possible extensions, see our extensive past coverage.
- Milwaukee’s Three Streetcar Extensions Need Mayoral Direction - Jeramey Jannene - Nov 8th, 2023
- Transportation: Streetcar Extension Opens Sunday - Jeramey Jannene - Oct 28th, 2023
- Ride Along On Streetcar Extension Before It Opens - Jeramey Jannene - Oct 11th, 2023
- Lakefront Streetcar Extension Opens October 29 - Jeramey Jannene - Aug 22nd, 2023
- Streetcar Ridership Has Climbed For 27 Straight Months Year-Over-Year - Jeramey Jannene - Jul 28th, 2023
- Transportation: Harley-Davidson Is New Streetcar Sponsor - Jeramey Jannene - Jul 7th, 2023
- Committee Backs 4 Streetcar Extensions - Jeramey Jannene - Jun 28th, 2023
- Garbage Truck Crashes Into Streetcar - Jeramey Jannene - Mar 27th, 2023
- 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
Read more about Milwaukee Streetcar here
- Back in the News: Bucks Owners Continue to Cash In - Bruce Murphy - Nov 28th, 2022
- Murphy’s Law: Bucks Subsidy An Issue in US Senate Race - Bruce Murphy - May 9th, 2022
- Murphy’s Law: Bucks Franchise Worth $1.86 Billion - Bruce Murphy - Jan 25th, 2021
- Op Ed: County Parks Lost Funding to Bucks Arena - Patricia Jursik - Jul 7th, 2020
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Fiserv Forum Workers to Get $15/Hour - Jeramey Jannene - Jan 29th, 2020
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Bucks Beat Hiring Targets on Fiserv Forum - Jeramey Jannene - Nov 20th, 2019
- Murphy’s Law: Taxpayers Make Bucks, Brewers Rich - Bruce Murphy - Apr 16th, 2019
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Bucks Unveil Master Plan for Park East - Jeramey Jannene - Mar 15th, 2019
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Bucks Plan Massive Arena Signs - Jeramey Jannene - Feb 12th, 2019
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Bucks’ New Bar Is “The MECCA” - Jeramey Jannene - Feb 7th, 2019
Read more about New Bucks Arena here