Jeramey Jannene

No Agreement on Streetcar Extension

Mayor's press conference touts $160 million expansion plan. Delay could hurt city, he says.

By - May 29th, 2019 05:43 pm
The Hop streetcar extension map. Map from City of Milwaukee.

The Hop streetcar extension map. Map from City of Milwaukee.

Mayor Tom Barrett‘s proposal to extend the streetcar to Bronzeville, Fiserv Forum, the convention center and the northern edge of Walker’s Point hasn’t been derailed, but an agreement will need to be reached soon with the Common Council to keep an extension on track for July 2020.

Barrett unveiled a multi-phase proposal in early May to build an extension and new public plaza from the Milwaukee Intermodal Station to the Wisconsin Center by July 2020, an extension north via Fiserv Forum to W. North Ave. and N. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. and south via N. Milwaukee St. to S. 1st St. and W. Pittsburgh Ave, extending just into Walker’s Point.

But the Common Council put the proposal on hold last week.

Barrett, in a press conference Wednesday afternoon, called his $52 million plan “bold, yet fiscally responsible.”

“From a ridership standpoint and an economic development standpoint, we are in very good shape,” said Barrett. The mayor and members of his administration continue to meet with members of the council.

The council’s Zoning, Neighborhoods & Development Committee held the matter last week, and chair Khalif Rainey said a special meeting would have been called for Tuesday if a solution to a multitude of concerns was found.

That didn’t happen. Nor was it discussed at Wednesday’s Common Council meeting.

Council members Robert Bauman and Jose G. Perez have been critical of the plan, stating it does not go far enough south into Walker’s Point. But Department of City Development Commissioner Rocky Marcoux said the reason the plan does not go further south was partially at Perez’s request regarding the lack of a consensus on a route and the lack of tax-incremental financing districts from which to fund engineering and planning costs.

Ald. Russell W. Stamper, II has said he wants to see three funds created in conjunction with the streetcar extension. Stamper would like like to see funding of an anti-displacement fund, a job training fund and a central city business development fund. Stamper said a $6 million anti-displacement fund would prevent any displacement due to gentrification for the next 20 years.

“Yes, I’m using this for leverage for investment in the central city,” Stamper told Urban Milwaukee in an interview.

But Barrett Wednesday warned that a delay could impact the ability to construct the convention center extension and Vel R. Phillips Plaza in time for the July 2020 Democratic National Convention.

Administration officials told Urban Milwaukee that the biggest concern is the lead time required to order the supplies, chiefly the curved rails, to build the convention center expansion.

Why not just split it in two, with the bigger expansion and short extension as two different votes? The mayor told Urban Milwaukee his administration would have to talk to council members about that idea.

“I’m asking the council to take a vote on this and consider this so we can move forward,” said Barrett.

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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

One thought on “Transportation: No Agreement on Streetcar Extension”

  1. says:

    I ride the street car regularly (instead of driving) to go to meetings or classes when it can get me within a few blocks’ walk of where I need to be. Initially, my relationship with The Hop was transactional: get me from Point A to Point B and back to A. But now I’ve started looking at what’s along the way and getting off at stops in between to patronize restaurants, coffee shops, grocery stores and event venues along the route. As I’ve gotten used to the convenience of The Hop, I’ve started to make decisions about where I go for my entertainment, where I shop or where I suggest a meeting location based on where the street car goes (not exclusively, but it is becoming a factor in my decision-making). And I’m sure I’m not the only one! Just like people think about traffic and parking as they make their plans, people will begin to think about The Hop route for making their plans. I hope the aldermen can find their way to supporting extension(s), as the benefit to both citizens and businesses is great and will only increase. As the weather warms (it WILL be warm some day again…) and festival season kicks off, ridership will explode. Once people experience the ease and pleasantness of taking the street car and the lack of parking hassle, like me, many will start to change their patterns of how they get around and where they go based on that convenience. Businesses along the routes will boom. New businesses will pop up. I’m concerned, however, that if the alderman dither and delay and we miss the push to have extensions in time for the DNC, we’ll lose the sense of urgency, the extensions will take years to come or won’t happen at all, the momentum will be lost and the economic potential that is all there waiting to be tapped will be missed. Now is the time to mobilize (literally!) and for Milwaukee to make a big push forward in its evolution as a city. The opportunity of the DNC in particular must be leveraged to get all kinds of initiatives done, including expansion of the street car.

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