First Streetcar Heading to Milwaukee
Left Pennsylvania plant, will arrive by on March 26, mayor announces.
This is an update on our story from March 16th, “Streetcar Will Run on Streets Next Month.”
Mayor Tom Barrett announced Friday afternoon that the city’s first streetcar vehicle is now headed for Milwaukee. “The vehicle just left the Brookville Equipment Corp. plant in Pennsylvania by truck and will arrive here as early as Monday, March 26,” Barrett said in an email. “It’ll roll off the truck and then head inside our new Operations and Maintenance Facility at 4th and St. Paul. I will be inviting you to a formal unveiling of the first vehicle in a few weeks. You’re also welcome to stop by to see the vehicle arrive, although the exact time and day won’t be known much in advance.”
“You can follow the progress of this first vehicle’s delivery and expected arrival time on the Milwaukee Streetcar social media,” Barrett noted. “We’ll be using the hashtags #THEHOPMKE, #MILWAUKEEORBUST and #BORNTORIDE to help you follow the vehicle’s delivery.”
The first of five Milwaukee Streetcar vehicles is scheduled to arrive in Milwaukee on March 26th. And after a few weeks of final assembly and system testing, the Pennsylvania-built vehicle will begin rolling on city streets on April. The announcement comes 60 years to the month after the last streetcar operated on Milwaukee streets.
The initial test section of track will be from the Operations and Maintenance Facility on N. 4th St. underneath Interstate 794 to the station at W. St. Paul Ave. and N. Plankinton Ave. Testing will expand to the entire route from the Milwaukee Intermodal Station to the intersection of N. Prospect Ave. and E. Ogden Ave. in mid-to-late June according to project representative Patrick J. Flaherty.
Department of Public Works Commissioner Ghassan Korban declined to identify the final color scheme of the vehicle, but did say the vehicles will have a drastically different paint scheme than what has previously been depicted in renderings. However, one thing is certain to be highlighted on the vehicles: Potawatomi Hotel and Casino. The city announced a $10 million, 12-year presenting sponsorship arrangement with the casino in October for the $128 million project. The system’s official name will be “The Hop, presented by Potawatomi Hotel and Casino.”
The vehicle, which will be shipped to the city on an oversized truck, will arrive without a few key components installed. The pantograph system, which connects the vehicle to the overhead wire system, will be removed to allow the vehicle to fit under bridges. A “skirt,” which covers the lowest level of the vehicle, will also be missing. Those components will be installed before streetcar operator Transdev begins testing the vehicle.
“It’s going to be somewhat of a teasing phase, where people can see it, but they can’t touch it,” said Korban. Federal guidelines dictate that the vehicle will need to run for 1,000 kilometers before the system can be put into service, or approximately 151 roundtrips on the system’s first phase. “We would love to really invite the public, but we’re systems testing. Just know that we’re making it ready for you to ride,” said streetcar general manager Darryll Simpson.
The city made the vehicle arrival announcement at a regularly scheduled meeting of the Joint Committee on Downtown Streetcar Implementation. Korban said that while the vehicle delivery was originally anticipated to occur a month earlier, it is still within the anticipated delivery window and will not impact the project’s timeline.
The 2.2-mile initial phase is scheduled to begin operation in late 2018, with the extension to the lakefront entering service in 2019.
“To date we are still projecting under budget,” said Flaherty of The Concord Group. The firm, which serves as the city’s owner’s representative on the project, reported that $80.36 million has been spent on the project to date, including $1.13 million from a $4.84 million contingency fund.
Final design work on the lakefront extension is complete and track work on that segment will is scheduled to begin this year. Flaherty said the utility relocation costs are within the projected budget. All utility relocation work is scheduled to be completed by the end of April.
Flaherty reported system construct manager Kiewit Infrastructure is ahead of scheduling on meeting a requirement to hire unemployed or under-employed city residents. Through December approximately 43 percent of the project’s construction hours have been performed by Resident Preference Program participants. Kiewit must meet a city-imposed requirement that 40 percent of the hours be performed by RPP participants. The 40 percent has recently been exceeded by Northwestern Mutual on their new tower and the Milwaukee Bucks are on track to surpass it on the new arena, but smaller developers have struggled to meet the requirement that comes with any project receiving $1 million or more in city funds.
2-Story Hired to Market System
City engineer Jeff Polenske announced the city is negotiating the final details of a contract to market the system with 2-Story Marketing. The Walker’s Point-based firm will be in charge of developing public information and safety campaigns around the system, as well as generating more sponsorship deals. The firm will also be responsible for developing a final website that reflects the new brand, The Hop.
“Obviously 2-Story is incredibly proud to be part of this transformational project,” said firm owner and president Ellen Homb. “Even though we’re small, we’re very mighty in our reach.” Homb said the firm’s client roster includes the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District, Milwaukee Public Schools and Brewers Community Foundation. The firm has previously worked with the city on the Lead Safe Milwaukee campaign and with the Forestry Department.
The city received six bids from local firms to market the system. Helping the city analyze the bids were private sector partners Tarik Moody of 88Nine, Gary Witt of the Pabst Theater Group, Scott Schwebel of Colectivo Coffee and Megan Suardini of VISIT Milwaukee. “It was really important for us to not only get the experience on the marketing side from some outside individuals, but also a different set of eyes from a business standpoint,” said Polenske.
Koban and Polenske declined to identify the other bidders.
Streetcar Hiring Underway
System general manager Darryll Simpson reports that Transdev has begun hiring for the project. The manager, who works for Transdev North America, said the system is currently looking to hire nine individuals. TransDevNA.com lists four positions in Milwaukee for supervisory and technician roles.
Simpson told the committee: “We’re looking at having a great startup here in Milwaukee. I don’t see any obstacles.”
Hiring for vehicle operators will begin in late April according to Simpson. The jobs will be posted on TransdevNA.com and MilwaukeeStreetcar.com
“We have a very robust training program, for the supervisory staff, operator staffing, maintenance staff. If you come in with the right qualities that we can build out from, that’s what we’re really looking for,” said Simpson.
City Misses on Federal Grant for Arena Extension
The city again failed on a federal grant application to partially support the extension of the system to the new arena. The city had applied for the grant through the Targeted Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) program. However, the U.S. Department of Transportation under the direction of Secretary Elaine Chao and President Donald Trump has drastically altered the competitively-awarded program to favor rural highways, with only 3.8 percent of the latest grant round supporting transit projects. “Previous rounds of TIGER grants allocated about 15-30 percent of the total to transit, a quarter to walking and biking projects and less than half to roads and bridges,” reports Streetsblog editor Angie Schmitt.
After multiple submissions, the city received a $14 million grant in 2015 to support the lakefront extension. The city also received past TIGER grants for other projects, including the reconstruction of the Juneau Avenue bridge over the Milwaukee River.
The city intends to continue to apply for future TIGER grants.
If you think stories like this are important, become a member of Urban Milwaukee and help support real independent journalism. Plus you get some cool added benefits, all detailed here.
For more project details, including the project timeline, financing, route and possible extensions, see our extensive past coverage.
- Transportation: Should Milwaukee Stop The Hop? - Jeramey Jannene - Oct 13th, 2020
- Transportation: The Hop Now Wears a Mask - Jeramey Jannene - Aug 18th, 2020
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Is A Couture Deal Finally Coming? - Jeramey Jannene - May 13th, 2020
- Transportation: SUV Driver Runs Into The Hop - Jeramey Jannene - Feb 28th, 2020
- Transportation: Streetcar Kiosks Could Bring In $500,000 Annually - Jeramey Jannene - Feb 20th, 2020
- Thanks A Million, Hop Riders! - The Hop - Feb 19th, 2020
- Transportation: We Energies Will Sponsor Streetcar - Jeramey Jannene - Feb 10th, 2020
- Transportation: Streetcar Ridership Up in January Versus 2019 - Jeramey Jannene - Feb 7th, 2020
- Transportation: Streetcar Ridership Up in December - Jeramey Jannene - Jan 14th, 2020
- Transportation: Ridership Falls for The Hop - Jeramey Jannene - Dec 16th, 2019
Read more about Milwaukee Streetcar here