Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

$30 Million Spent on Streetcar

Streetcar project on track, literally -- and financially.

By - May 19th, 2017 01:30 pm
Milwaukee Streetcar Track. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Milwaukee Streetcar Track. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

More than 20 years after the federal funds for the project were originally approved, Milwaukee is moving forward on the Milwaukee Streetcar. Kiewet Infrastructure is leading the general contracting on the $127.64 million project and is quickly ramping up the pace of construction. To date the city has spent $28.24 million on the project.

As we reported last week, crews have begun laying the steel rails for the system on W. St. Paul Ave. This week a successful, 50-foot concrete test pour was conducted that locks the rail in place. That 50-foot segment of track on W. St. Paul Ave. is now complete and crews will soon begin conducting pours 300 feet at a time. By the end of June drivers will be able to drive on top of that stretch of track, well before streetcar vehicles begin running on it.

Work on a single-track stretch of the route along N. Broadway will ramp up next week. Traffic barriers were installed this week that leave only one south-bound lane open. Next week excavation for the track guideway will begin. According to construction manager Carolyn Geilings, Kiewet and the city are continuing to coordinate with various area festivals on a detailed construction schedule to minimize the impact of construction.

Kiewet and various subcontractors are employing approximately 36 people to build out the system with an additional 15 individuals serving on a project management team, according to Geilings. That number will rise as construction ramps up in the coming months and an operator is announced. The city conducted a number of interviews with potential operators following a RFP issued in February and is now negotiating a contract with one vendor. An announcement is expected this summer.

CG Schmidt is leading the construction of the operations and maintenance facility. That building is being constructed underneath Interstate 794 between N. 4th and N. 5th St. Crews are currently constructing the structure’s foundation. The building will need to be substantially complete by December when the first vehicle arrives from Pennsylvania-based Brookville Equipment Corp.

According to a presentation by Patrick J. Flaherty of The Concord Group, which serves as the city’s owner’s representative on the project, $30.5 million of a budgeted $127.64 million has been expended on the project to date. Flaherty broke down the figures at a Friday morning meeting of the city’s Joint Committee on Downtown Streetcar Implementation. From the $80.28 million construction budget for the first two phases, $12.11 million has been spent. The city has spent $4.36 million out of a budgeted $23.84 million on vehicles. And in the broad category of “professional services” the city has spent $14.03 million out of a budgeted $16.28 million. No funds have been spent from a budgeted $7.24 million contingency fund. All figures reflect a combined cost of both the initial route and the lakefront extension.

NOTE: An earlier version of this article reported the total spent as $28.24 million. That number was incorrectly reported by the streetcar project team at a committee meeting, although the underlying numbers were all correct.

Project Timeline

Kiewet expects to complete construction on the first phase of the streetcar in the second quarter of 2018 when testing of it would commence. Construction on the lakefront spur is expected to begin at that time.

Public operation on the initial route connecting the Milwaukee Intermodal Station and Westown with the Historic Third Ward, East Town and the Lower East Side is scheduled to begin in the fall of 2018 following route testing. The lakefront line extension is expected to begin operating in the third quarter of 2019. The system, including the lakefront line, is estimated to cost $127.64 million, of which $69.1 million comes from federal grants.

Utility work is wrapping up along the initial route. That work, which has been underway for over a year, has moved block by block throughout the route. We Energies and other utilities are hiring their own crews for that work and are being reimbursed by the city.

Detroit Streetcar Opens

Last Friday the Q-Line opened in Detroit. The 3.3-mile route runs primarily along Detroit’s main street, Woodward Ave. At a meeting this morning regarding the Milwaukee project, Department of Public Works Commissioner Ghassan Korban stated that “we’re learning from some of the things they’re experiencing.” HNTB, who leads engineering work on the Milwaukee project, serves as the owner’s representative on the Detroit project.

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More about the Milwaukee Streetcar

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

Read more about Milwaukee Streetcar here

4 thoughts on “Eyes on Milwaukee: $30 Million Spent on Streetcar”

  1. Edwin Thaves says:

    $28 million so the folks that live in the Third Ward can more easily get to Jazz in the Park. This route doesn’t connect people to jobs or tourists to major travel destinations. It duplicates existing bus routes and could just as easily be walked. I support public transportation but the Milwaukee Streetcar is a complete waste of taxpayer dollars. For the same amount, we could buy every child in the City of Milwaukee a bike. Or fund healthcare for the 11,000 kids in the city doing without.

  2. That guy says:

    Edwin, you do understand that that money doesn’t exist without the streetcar. Also, this route is not perfect but remember that it’s a starter line. Once the arena, walkers point, Marquette and UWM extensions are running this will connect lots of big destinations. Then it can be used to help spur development in places that really need it like bronzeville

    I do think the way the green line is being done is dumb. They should just have every other blue line car take the lakefront loop. That line really doesn’t connect a whole lot

  3. I concur with Edwin Thaves assessment of the heavy investment on the new streetcar project. In this time of extreme financial difficulty for many Milwaukee residents, the money could be better spent on bus basses for low income, or job seeking residents, or school children to access work or job interviews or school bus passes. While I enjoyed riding the street care when I was a child from the Southside to the downtown library and museum every weekend, my only other option was walking. That should not be an option for low income persons looking to go to work, apply for jobs or go to school. I would have rather seen the $ used for those transportation services.
    maryann borman

  4. Mark says:

    I live in the Third Ward and don’t want this trash. It’s ridiculous that in a time when transportation is getting more and more privatized (Uber, Lyft, Swarm City…) Milwaukee puts a bus on a track. It’s certainly not for the city, it’s for the politicians and construction companies. Private companies can compete against each other just fine; if taxis did a decent job, we wouldn’t need Uber. It’s difficult to compete with federal (stolen) money so there goes work for drivers trying to make a living.

    It’s bad enough that we’re using the federal government to take people’s money for this, but it’s going to make driving downtown hell during construction.

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