Committee Approves City BRT Agreement
City DPW would be reimbursed by Milwaukee County for design and infrastructure costs.
Milwaukee County’s East-West Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) line continues to move forward.
The Common Council’s Public Works Committee approved a reimbursement agreement Wednesday morning between the city and county for design and infrastructure costs.
The $54 million project, intended to create an express bus route between Downtown and Wauwatosa, would operate on a number of city streets including Wisconsin Avenue and W. Blue Mound Rd.
Dedicated lanes would be created on a stretch of W. Wisconsin Ave. and stations would be installed on city-owned land.
Tapia told the committee that the agreement would cover reimbursement for everything from design work to the installation of temporary signals during construction.
But a bigger agreement remains to be struck between the city and county regarding who maintains the infrastructure.
“That’s the important file. That’s the one that will determine who will pay for snow plowing, maintenance of the roadway, station maintenance,” said committee chair Alderman Robert Bauman.
HNTB planner Mike Zabel said the county continues to work through the federal grant process. Zabel said the grant has a “medium” rating from the Federal Transit Administration, the minimum required to move forward.
The federal government would pay for up to $38 million of the project’s costs under the county’s proposal.
According to MCTS transportation specialist David Locher, $11 million of the project’s costs will go towards purchasing buses, which could be electric.
“We aren’t committed to using fully electric on the BRT; it still is a possibility pending county oversight. We’re still exploring hybrid and other county options,” said Locher. If electric buses are used, an overhead charging station would be included at the end of the route.
The buses would have approximately 37 seats and a total capacity of up to 55 people. Doors would only be included on one side.
Bauman said he favored buses with doors on both sides so stations in the middle of the road could have been used. “Which I’ve argued would have had less interference with parking, deliveries,” said Bauman.
“Unfortunately that was floated earlier in the design process and ruled out,” said Locher, regarding putting stations in the middle of the road. “The fear, operationally, was you would be placing people on an island and from an ADA perspective it was how do you get from the island to the sidewalk.”
The route would run the length of Bauman’s district from the lakefront west to N. 35th St. where it would enter Ald. Michael Murphy‘s district before hitting Wauwatosa. The two council members were successful in reducing the total length of the dedicated lanes for the project following constituent complains.
Alderman Mark Borkowski, a former County Supervisor, did not vote for the agreement.
“I know that this has been a topic of discussion since 2016,” said the southwest side alderman. “I still don’t see the need.”
“I realize this is being driven by Milwaukee County. They have got a very good bus system that shoots right down Wisconsin Avenue,” said Borkowski. “It seems duplicate.”
“It seems like we’re spending money because we would like to spend money, and I just don’t see the need. It’s going to cause a lot of disruption for the people that live on that route.”
“People who talk about the bus system should learn the history of the bus system,” responded Ald. Nik Kovac. He said former Governor Scott Walker‘s spending of capital funds on operations during his tenure as Milwaukee County Executive had only been bailed out by the federal stimulus program.
MCTS faced a substantial budget deficit this year that was only averted by the reallocation of health care savings.
The committee approved the agreement on a 3-1 vote. It will next go before the full Common Council.
The new line is expected to go into operation in 2021.
The Couture and BRT
Bauman, who has long contended that MCTS has abandoned using The Couture as the route’s eastern station and that the city should follow suit with The Hop, got his chance to ask an MCTS official about the county’s plans on the record.
Locher said the county still intended to use The Couture if it’s built, but is exploring other options.
“So you have a plan B unlike some other people around this community,” said Bauman of the recent revelation that city officials haven’t begun engineering alternatives to using the base of the long-delayed apartment tower.
“The bonus of it being a bus is we have more flexibility,” said Locher. He said the county was considering options including a station near Discovery World or a station closer to the Milwaukee Art Museum.
“Maybe you can talk to some of our people at Public Works,” said Bauman.
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Related Legislation: File 191114
- Transportation: MCTS Selects BRT Construction Contractor - Graham Kilmer - Apr 29th, 2021
- Transportation: MCTS Selects Electric Bus Manufacturer - Graham Kilmer - Mar 11th, 2021
- Transportation: BRT Secures Key $41 Million Grant - Graham Kilmer - Dec 14th, 2020
- Transportation: County Expects Key BRT Grant Soon - Graham Kilmer - Dec 3rd, 2020
- Transportation: Increased Transit Funding Planned for 2021 - Graham Kilmer - Oct 15th, 2020
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- Transportation: BRT Line Delayed Until 2022 - Graham Kilmer - Jul 11th, 2020
- Transportation: Trump Announces Funding for Milwaukee Bus Rapid Transit Line - Jeramey Jannene - May 28th, 2020
- Transportation: Committee Approves City BRT Agreement - Jeramey Jannene - Oct 23rd, 2019
- Transportation: Bus Rapid Transit Expected by 2021 - Graham Kilmer - Jul 12th, 2019
Read more about East-West BRT Line here