Milwaukee Streetcar Project Approved, but Hurdles Remain Ahead

It took more than a decade of political wrangling for the Milwaukee Common Council to craft and approve a plan for a $64.6 million downtown streetcar project that was finally green-lighted Monday.

Sort of.

Because of concerns aired during contentious debates about possible cost overruns, the council limited current spending to engineering expenses. No money for construction will be released until a comptroller reviews the project.

“I view this as a significant step, but by no means do I view this as the end of the road,” Mayor Tom Barrett told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Barrett noted that Milwaukee is one of few American cities that has no light-rail or streetcar public transportation in supporting the plan.

Officials say the project could create anywhere from 680 to 1,080 jobs in the city, depending on which particular routes are included in the plans. Approximately $55 million of the project will be covered by a federal transit grant the city received in 1991 and, to date, has left unused. The remaining $9 million will come from a local city tax and parking fees.

But others fear that moving utility lines for the project, among other items, could wind up costing Milwaukee millions more in unseen expenses.

The street car is an “absolutely horrible idea,” Alderman Joe Dudzik told Milwaukee Public Radio. “My true thoughts about this idea is that the first car that we put on the track should be named ‘Abyss’ because we could be building a hole in the late and throwing money into it for the rest of this city’s existence.”

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