Graham Kilmer

Federal Funds Creating Two New East-West BRT Stations

County transportation department planning two additional stations along East-West BRT.

By - May 19th, 2023 04:01 pm
Vel R. Phillips Plaza. Rendering by TKWA.

Vel R. Phillips Plaza. Rendering by TKWA.

A grant from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) will fund the build-out of two stations for the Connect 1 bus rapid transit line.

The FTA awarded Milwaukee County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) received approximately $2.1 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding to reduce the local cost of the project. But the county has already borrowed the funding it planned to spend on the project, which is being used to purchase battery electric buses (BEBs).

So MCDOT plans to use the new $2.1 million from the FTA on BEBs and will repurpose some of the bond sale proceeds to “put toward additional BRT amenities,” said Anthony Geiger, MCDOT grants development manager, at a meeting of the county board’s Committee on Finance Thursday.

One BRT station will be built out at the site of the future Vel R. Phillips Plaza along W. Wisconsin Ave., and another at what will eventually be The Couture, 909 E. Michigan St. The latter station is the eastern terminus of the line.

“The Vel Phillips stop and The Couture development stop, that we’re asking to receive approval for, those were considered and discussed in the early stages of the BRT project, probably six or seven years ago,” Geiger said. “But at the time, they were not included in the original application that was submitted to the FTA for the BRT project, and that was because, at that time, both of those projects were sort of in a state of flux.”

Geiger said the FTA would have noted the uncertainty surrounding both developments and could have tanked the county’s application for funding. The plan, he explained, was to seek funding through the county budget process in the years following the launch of the BRT.

The Vel R. Phillips Plaza is a City of Milwaukee project. The Milwaukee Common Council recently approved using $15.75 million from nearby tax incremental financing districts to fund the creation of the new public plaza. It will be developed on a city-owned parking lot at 401 W. Wisconsin Avenue between N. Vel R. Phillips Ave. and N. 5th St.

The BRT station at The Couture will turn it into a genuinely multi-modal residential development, as it will also be a stop on the city’s streetcar network, called The Hop.

The funding will be used to build a bus shelter, a level boarding platform and snow-melting sidewalks at Vel R. Phillips Plaza, Geiger said, as well as the installation of signage, an off-board ticket machine and security cameras.

A platform and bus station with all the same accouterments will also be constructed at The Couture. Additionally, an electrical hookup will be installed for a charger for the battery electric buses.

The Connect 1 BRT will begin service on June 4. All rides on the new service will be free for the first four months thanks to a sponsorship deal with Umo Mobility, which is the transit technology platform that MCTS has contracted with for its new WisGo fare system.

The nine-mile bus route will run between downtown Milwaukee and the Milwaukee Regional Medical Center in Wauwatosa, providing faster, more efficient bus service east and west across the county with dedicated bus lanes and signal priority.

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