Jeramey Jannene

City Poised To Use $8.5 Million From TIFs to Combat Reckless Driving

Projects located near Midtown Center, Burnham Park and East Town.

By - Feb 11th, 2022 02:57 pm
Midtown Center area improvements. Image from Department of City Development.

Midtown Center area improvements. Image from Department of City Development.

The City of Milwaukee is poised to funnel millions of new dollars towards rebuilding streets as part of an effort to combat reckless driving.

A total of $8.5 million in property tax revenue from four tax incremental (TIF) districts would be allocated to fund traffic calming and safety improvements including protected bike lanes, curb bump-outs, narrower travel lanes, high-impact paving and new pedestrian infrastructure.

The proposed projects are located along N. Van Buren St. in Downtown, near the Midtown Center shopping mall on the city’s north side and in the area around Stadium Business Park and Burnham Park on the city’s south side.

The proposal is backed by Acting Mayor Cavalier Johnson, who declared reckless driving a public safety crisis on his first day in office.

It would build on other new initiatives to tackle what is widely viewed as a reckless driving crisis. In 2021, the Common Council allocated $7.15 million from its federal American Rescue Plan Act grant towards projects on 16 corridors, making speed humps cheaper for nearby property owners and lowering the default speed limit from 25 to 20 miles per hour.

Van Buren Street

The N. Van Buren St. portion of the project includes allocating $3.1 million to designing and constructing a potential “all ages” protected bike lane with associated curb bump outs, bus stop islands and green infrastructure improvements. The bike lane would connect with protected lanes on E. Kilbourn Ave. That portion of the proposal relies on $1.6 million from the TIF district (#49) used to build a parking structure for the Cathedral Place office building and $1.5 million from the district used to fund the construction of the riverwalk along the north end of Water Street.

Both area council members, Nik Kovac and Robert Bauman, have recently called for traffic calming improvements to be made to the main north-south route through East Town and the Lower East Side. In November, the Department of Public Works restriped a portion of the street from four lanes to two lanes with a center turn lane and painted bike lanes.

Midtown Center

The Midtown Center portion of the plan allocates $2.9 million from the TIF district (#42) used to develop the shopping center for a variety of traffic calming measures centered on nearby streets, including W. Capitol Dr., W. Fond du Lac Ave., N. 60th St., W. Congress St. and N. 51st Blvd. Curb bumpouts would be installed at more than two dozen intersections. They’re designed to shorten pedestrian crossing distances and prohibit reckless passing, A number of streets west of the center would be given the city’s high-impact paving treatment.

Johnson unveiled his broader plan to combat reckless driving in December at a press conference at the Next Door office, 5310 W. Capitol Dr. Attendees of that press conference had to step over vehicle pieces left along N. 53rd St. from an overnight crash.

Burnham Park

The southside portion of the proposal would be focused on improvements to three streets. The funding, $2.5 million, would come from the Stadium Business Park TIF district (#54). The district was created in 2004 to fund the redevelopment of a former foundry into four multi-tenant, light-industrial buildings.

S. 37th St. from W. Lincoln Ave. to W. Scott St. would receive traffic calming improvements and see the development of a bicycle boulevard (a strategy designed to discourage through traffic and slow the remaining local traffic). W. Scott St. from S. 35th St. to S. 37th St. would also see the same treatment.

W. Burnham St. from S. 32nd St. to S. 36th St. would also receive traffic calming improvements. Much of the stretch is bordered by Burnham Park to the north and Rogers Park to the south.

The effort is part of a strategy to improve the environment around Greenfield Billingual School, 1711 S. 35th St.

Other Changes

The projects rely on a provision of state law that allows for TIF districts nearing the end of their original intent to be amended to fund paving and other roadway projects within a half-mile of their boundaries.

The districts, under state statute, are only allowed to be originally created to improve a blighted property for a project that otherwise wouldn’t happen. Incremental property tax revenue generated from the district is used to pay down associated debt.

Closure of a TIF district, all else being held equal, increases the amount of taxed property and thereby reduces property tax rates, but holding a district open for future use does not withhold revenue from property taxing entities under the state’s property tax cap system.

Districts eligible for amendment to fund street projects must be generating enough surplus revenue to pay off existing project debt within their 27-year maximum life.

The latest TIF amendments aren’t solely being used to pay street projects.

The Water Street TIF district would be amended to provide $2.1 million to pay for a portion of the riverwalk and dockwall at the EIGHTEEN87 on Water affordable housing development and $700,000 to build a segment on an adjoining property at 1771 N. Water St. A narrative included with the proposed amendment says improvements would also be made just across the Milwaukee River on the riverwalk segment near N. Commerce St. and the Milwaukee Rowing Club facility.

The Stadium Business Park TIF would be amended to provide $2.84 million in donations to district #74 (North 35th Street and West Capitol Drive) located near Century City which isn’t generating the necessary increment to retire its associated debt. The district was previously amended in 2016 to donate to TIF #59 (Bronzeville). The donor provision is used to bail out struggling districts.

The amendments will first be considered by the Redevelopment Authority of the City of Milwaukee board on Thursday, Feb. 17. The Common Council will also need to approve the amendments.

Another proposal, approved by the council on Tuesday, extended the life of a north-side, industrial district by one year to provide $450,000 for affordable housing.

DPW is completing work on a protected bicycle lane paid for with TIF support on W. Becher St.

If you think stories like this are important, become a member of Urban Milwaukee and help support real, independent journalism. Plus you get some cool added benefits.

One thought on “Transportation: City Poised To Use $8.5 Million From TIFs to Combat Reckless Driving”

  1. NieWiederKrieg says:

    Dear Mayor of Milwaukee,

    Why does law enforcement and the judicial system have such a difficult time getting reckless driving terrorists and killers off the streets? Most of them have illegal exhaust systems, illegally loud amps and subwoofers, illegal dark tinted windows, and illegal dark tinted license plates. They are everywhere. They are very easy to locate. Please give me a badge and I’ll clean up the streets, if you are not willing.


Leave a Reply

You must be an Urban Milwaukee member to leave a comment. Membership, which includes a host of perks, including an ad-free website, tickets to marquee events like Summerfest, the Wisconsin State Fair and the Florentine Opera, a better photo browser and access to members-only, behind-the-scenes tours, starts at $9/month. Learn more.

Join now and cancel anytime.

If you are an existing member, sign-in to leave a comment.

Have questions? Need to report an error? Contact Us