Graham Kilmer

BRT Secures Key $41 Million Grant

Federal grant to pay for 80% of county's Bus Rapid Transit project. Construction starts in spring.

By - Dec 14th, 2020 01:47 pm
E-W BRT Wisconsin and Water - Eastbound Rendering. Rendering courtesy of the Milwaukee County Transit System.

E-W BRT Wisconsin and Water – Eastbound Rendering. Rendering courtesy of the Milwaukee County Transit System.

The long planned East-West Bus Rapid Transit project in Milwaukee County has finally secured a key grant agreement allowing the project to move forward.

The Milwaukee County Transit System announced Monday it has received a Small Starts Grant Agreement from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA). This agreement will cover nearly 80% of the project costs or $40.9 million.

“Our team has worked hard to move this project from concept to implementation,” said Dan Boehm, MCTS managing director. “We’re looking forward to breaking ground on station construction this Spring so that current and new riders will soon be able to experience the future of public transportation.”

The $55 million project is a nine-mile bus line that will run from downtown Milwaukee along Wisconsin Avenue and W. Bluemound Road out to the Milwaukee County Regional Medical Center in Wauwatosa. It will be a high-frequency bus service, with dedicated lanes, traffic signal priority and off-bus fare collection. 

Currently, the plan is to run 11 Battery Electric Buses (BEB) on the line. The county is currently interviewing BEB manufacturers for the project.

Now that the county has the grant agreement in place with the FTA, it will break ground on the project in 2021. Construction is expected to take two seasons. The planned timeline would have services beginning in Fall 2022. The county has been planning the project since 2016.

The MCTS has heralded the BRT as the future of transit. It will fit neatly into the redesigned bus system that is being rolled out in 2021 called MCTS Next. The new system prioritizes high frequency service and shorter travel times.

Said County Executive David Crowley: “This historic project is an example of how – with the Federal Transit Administration’s support – Milwaukee County is investing in equity and bridging the gap in racial disparities across the board.”

Approximately 70,000 people live within a half-mile of the BRT route, of which 21% don’t own a vehicle, 37% are minority and 23% live below the poverty line, according to data from MCTS.

The grant agreement announced Monday was the linchpin of the project and also the source of delays during the past year or so. 

Planners expected construction to be started by Spring 2020. But the project was stalled in 2019 as the project team waited for the grant agreement with the FTA. Eventually, the project timeline was delayed a year.

So after approximately four years of planning and coordination between various levels of government, the project is being praised by Governor Tony Evers, Senator Tammy Baldwin and Representative Gwen Moore.

Moore said the grant agreement was “fantastic news” for her constituents and Milwaukee County residents.

Station Platform Renderings

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