Work begins on 2.5-mile track for streetcar in Milwaukee

Construction to last through Summer 2018.

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Construction of a long-debated streetcar track is underway in Milwaukee.

Welding has begun, and workers will soon start digging trenches for the tracks, WUWM-FM reported.

The two-and-a-half-mile project has been divisive from the beginning because of its approximately $128 million cost. More than half the money is coming from the federal government.

Five companies have submitted proposals to operate the streetcar so far. A decision isn't expected for several months.

City engineer Jeff Polenske said the streetcar team is working closely with downtown businesses to stay ahead of any sort of potential problems.

"The staging plan that we set up was really based around a lot of the different needs that we found and heard from the stakeholder's downtown," Polenske said. "...They're certain areas that we want to be working in at certain times of the summer so that we can avoid festivals and different activities that are taking place in the downtown area."

Milwaukee Public Market spokesman Paul Schwartz said he is not concerned.

"During the course of 2014 and 2015, we had the reconstruction of the 794 freeway, which was right outside of our building," he said. "It took over half of our parking lot. Throughout that time, both our customer visits in the building and our overall sales grew. So we're confident that this construction, (is) well planned out."

Construction on the first two-mile stretch of the streetcar line is expected to last through the summer of 2018.

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