Jeramey Jannene

We Energies Will Sponsor Streetcar

4th sponsor streetcar has attracted, $100,000 deal during DNC not finalized.

By - Feb 10th, 2020 04:26 pm
The Hop, Milwaukee's streetcar, pictured on N. Broadway during testing. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

The Hop, Milwaukee’s streetcar, pictured on N. Broadway during testing. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

The city has landed its fourth streetcar sponsor. We Energies will contribute $100,000 to The Hop as part of supporting operations during the Democratic National Convention.

Announced during Mayor Tom Barrett‘s 2020 State of the City address, much of the deal remains to be worked out.

Could the funds be used to expand service? Maybe. Could We Energies have a branded streetcar? Maybe. How long will the promotion last? At least during the week of the convention.

“Our public transportation is going to be very important during the DNC,” said Department of Public Works Commissioner Jeff Polenske in an interview. “It’s $100,000 to support the operations during the DNC.” As part of the convention host agreement, the city is required to maintain the streetcar as free during the event, something it has confirmed it will do through all of 2020.

Polenske told Urban Milwaukee that many details will be worked out during the coming months, but he said We Energies interest was positive. Similar to other partnership proposals, Polenske hopes they become long-term partnerships that recur annually. “It takes time to establish that kind of thing,” said the commissioner. He said the deal reflects the continued value organizations see in the streetcar.

Prior sponsorship deals include Everstream ($90,000), the Milwaukee Bucks (undisclosed) and Potawatomi Hotel & Casino ($10 million, 12 years).

The We Energies deal comes from a company that at one point nearly derailed the entire project. Shortly after the council was scheduled to vote on the project in 2011 the company released a statement regarding a potential $40 million cost to relocate its utilities. That triggered a lawsuit and ultimately a change in state law in We Energies’ favor, adding millions to the project’s cost. The city ultimately adjusted the route and allocated over $10 million to pay for utility relocation.

Now the utility is publicly supporting the project.

“As we do with numerous community organizations in our service area, we believe it’s important to support efforts that bring an economic benefit to the communities we serve. We are working closely with the city, DNC and others on an operational level to make sure the event is successful,” said a company spokesperson.

The money would not come from ratepayers, but from shareholders, said a We Energies representative.

Alderman Robert Bauman, a streetcar advocate who has been critical of the company’s behavior regarding the project, declined a request to comment on the deal. But he’s made his attitude toward We Energies perfectly clear before. “Hell will freeze over before I vote for doing business with We Energies,” said Bauman in January 2019 regarding the company’s opposition to a city solar project. But the council doesn’t get to vote on individual sponsorship deals.

The city’s 2020 budget includes $4.65 million for streetcar operations, including the lakefront line extension, with funding coming from a federal operating grant ($3.5 million), Potawatomi ($781,000) and advertising ($368,000).

A partnership with We Energies to develop a privately-owned solar farm on city land near Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport is pending before the Common Council.

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More about the DNC

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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.

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Categories: Transportation

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