Jeramey Jannene
Transportation

City Proposes Study of Streetcar to Walker’s Point

Proposed extension would run from Third Ward south to 6th and National.

By - Jul 8th, 2021 04:25 pm
The Hop, Milwaukee's streetcar system, on N. Broadway. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

The Hop, Milwaukee’s streetcar system, on N. Broadway. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

The City of Milwaukee is poised to move forward with preliminary planning and engineering work on an extension of The Hop streetcar system south into Walker’s Point.

A total of $250,000 would be allocated to study an extension of the system from the Historic Third Ward south to the area near the S. 6th St. and W. National Ave.

“This funding would allow us to do some initial planning and engineering for the Walker’s Point extension, which will enable us to solidify cost estimates for the extension and put us in a better position to compete for future federal funding,” said Mayor Tom Barrett‘s communications director Jeff Fleming.

A 2019 proposal would have stopped the extension at the intersection of S. 1st St. and W. Pittsburgh Ave. because of engineering and political uncertainty about the alignment going further south. It was to include a study of a future extension from W. Pittsburgh Ave. to W. National Ave.

Area Alderman Jose G. Perez has advocated for an extension to the intersection of S. 6th St. and W. National Ave. since at least 2015.

Perez raised concerns with the southern extension not going far enough in the 2019 plan, which, along with unrelated concerns from other council members, effectively halted Barrett’s 3.6-mile, $160 million expansion plan. Much of that expansion would have run through Westown, going past Fiserv Forum before heading towards W. North Ave. via N. Martin Luther King Jr Dr.

The funds for the 2021 study would come from a tax incremental financing district created in 2015 to fund the reconstruction of S. 5th St. That district is over performing expectations because of the surge in property values along the street after it was narrowed.

Excess property tax revenue in a TIF district can be used to pay for public infrastructure work within a half mile of the district’s boundaries.

The oddly-shaped district Barrett is proposing to amend runs from W. Virginia St. to W. Washington St. and primarily includes properties along S. 5th St. and S. 6th St. Incremental property tax revenue above 2015 levels is currently used to pay down debt associated with the street reconstruction.

The TIF district amendment, which requires Common Council approval, covers more than a preliminary streetcar study.

An additional $900,000 would be budgeted for pedestrian and bicycle friendly improvements along S. 6th St. and W. Mineral St. The improvements could include new pavement, traffic calming elements, sidewalks, street trees, landscaping, street lighting, streetscaping and “pedestrian amenities,” according to a city report.

W. National Ave. is slated to be rebuilt in the coming years as part of a state-funded project and the city is also seeking state funding for bicycle-friendly improvements to S. 6th St. north of W. Virginia St.

An additional $50,000 would be allocated for bike-sharing stations, enough to partially fund at least one Bublr Bikes station. A series of stations already exist in the area.

Engineering work on a streetcar extension north to Fiserv Forum and Bronzville is already substantially further along, part of the reason the Barrett administration proposed starting construction on that line in 2019.

But the council held off on enacting that plan, which eliminated some of the potential capital funding sources as tax incremental financing districts are being closed. The largest of those, the Beerline B district, is being closed out this year.

Barrett has included streetcar expansion as part of his targets for federal funding expected to flow to the city from a proposed infrastructure bill.

A lakefront extension of The Hop, through the base of The Couture, is scheduled to open next summer. The extension was part of the streetcar’s original 2015 approval, but has been stalled by repeated delays of the tower’s construction.

The city won a $750,000 federal grant to study the land use around potential streetcar extensions in 2016, finishing that work in late 2018. But that study, due to a restriction with the grant, didn’t include planning on the actual streetcar itself.

Perez did not respond to a request for comment by the time of publication.

2019 Extension Map

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

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

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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

Categories: Transportation, Weekly

2 thoughts on “Transportation: City Proposes Study of Streetcar to Walker’s Point”

  1. sbaldwin001 says:

    Here’s something that bothers me and should bother all Milwaukee citizens:

    “Excess property tax revenue in a TIF district can be used to pay for public infrastructure work within a half mile of the district’s boundaries.”

    Why within a “half mile”? Shouldn’t these TIF districts benefit the entire city? Why are Common Council members who representative wards far from these TIF districts not up in arms about this?

  2. Jeramey Jannene says:

    @Sbaldwin001 – The distance is set by state law and was a policy change the city lobbied for about a decade ago (going from memory on the date). Previously it had to be within the district.

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