Jeramey Jannene

Southside Streetcar Study, Street Improvements Approved

Walker's Point would be targeted for expansion.

By - Jul 20th, 2021 02:41 pm
2021 streetcar expansion map. Map from the City of Milwaukee - Department of City Development.

2021 streetcar expansion map. Map from the City of Milwaukee – Department of City Development.

A proposal to use growing property tax revenue to fund traffic calming improvements, a new Bublr Bikes station and a study of a potential streetcar extension in Walker’s Point received a key endorsement Tuesday morning.

The Common Council’s Zoning, Neighborhoods & Development Committee unanimously endorsed an amendment to the 2015 tax incremental financing district used to fund the S. 5th St. reconstruction. The district is overperforming expectations because of the surge in property values along the street after it was narrowed.

Streetcar Expansion

The highest-profile item in the proposal is to perform a preliminary engineering study of how to extend The Hop south towards S. 6th St. and W. National Ave. from the Historic Third Ward.

“This really catches up the south side expansion to the north side,” said Department of City Development economic development specialist Dan Casanova. He said the study would identify engineering concerns, including underground utilities and bridge clearances, to enable a more accurate cost estimate to be created for actually building the extension.

A 2019 proposal would have stopped the extension at the intersection of S. 1st St. and W. Pittsburgh Ave., the northeast corner of Walker’s Point, 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 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 Mayor Tom 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.

Casanova said engineering work is effectively complete to extend the streetcar north to W. Wisconsin Ave. and is 75% complete on an extension to Fiserv Forum. An extension further north to Bronzeville is not as far along.

“It is my understanding that it is the city’s intention to go north and south effectively simultaneously,” said Ald. Robert Bauman, addressing a concern that Alderwoman Milele A. Coggs said she has heard from constituents that the south side was leapfrogging the north side extension.

Casanova confirmed the intention was to pursue the extensions in tandem.

He said a change in a federal funding formula for transit grants would have the Federal Transit Administration covering 80% of the cost instead of 50%.

“We want to be in a good position to apply for those funds,” said Casanova.

A southern route has not been selected, but a map presented by DCD on Tuesday showed the line going south on S. 1st St. and west on W. National Ave.

Traffic Calming

The new proposal calls for bringing elements of the successful S. 5th St. traffic calming strategy to both S. 6th St. and W. Mineral St.

A total of $900,000 would be allocated for pedestrian and bicycle improvements. The improvements could include new pavement, traffic calming elements, sidewalks, street trees, landscaping, street lighting, streetscaping and “pedestrian amenities,” according to a city report.

Perez said residents, particularly along W. Mineral St., have been concerned about speeding and other reckless driving. W. Mineral St. at S. 6th St. serves a freeway ramp on and off of Interstate 94.

“I think we have learned our lesson in planning these on-and-off ramps that go into neighborhoods,” said Perez. A similar situation exists on the west side of the freeway near Walker Square where vehicles go from an elevated freeway down to a residential side street.

Casanova said curb bump-outs and other physical changes would be made to slow traffic. A city diagram shows a small traffic circle added to the intersection of W. Mineral St. and S. 4th St.

Perez said he was also supportive of changes to S. 6th St. “We know that 6th Street is a very busy thoroughfare to get Downtown, to go north and south,” said the alderman. He said he thought calming traffic would be a boon for existing businesses, particularly on the west side of the street, and encourage more investment. “We need some street calming measures.”

S. 6th St. would be targeted for improvements from W. Virginia St. to W. Washington St. W. Mineral St. would be improved from S. 2nd St. to S. 6th St.

Other changes are also planned for the area.

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.

With no additional changes to the district, Casanova said the district would repay its costs by 2029. But the area is seeing significant investment and could again be generating surplus revenue again in a few years.

The full council is scheduled to consider the proposal on July 27.

2019 Extension Map

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

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

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

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