Milwaukee declined federal grant for streetcar extension to Fiserv Forum

Posted at 5:38 PM, Dec 13, 2018
and last updated 2018-12-13 19:17:46-05

The City of Milwaukee’s hopes for federal grant money to extend the streetcar route to Fiserv Forum have fallen flat.

Milwaukee wanted to fast-track the streetcar extension to Fiserv Forum to have it done by the summer of 2020 for a potential Democratic National Convention. The problem is, the city’s plan depended on federal dollars to pay for half the project.

‘The Hop’ has been up and running for just over a month with plans to extend its two mile track to all the hot spots across the city, including Fiserv Forum. Heidi Hrupcin is on board.

“Please bring ‘The Hop’ down here, it would be so convenient for all of us,” she said.

The city’s wish to do just that hit a major snag earlier this week as its $20 million request was declined by a federal program.

"There was a rural focus for the awards this year, but also here in Milwaukee, there could be other factors,” said Milwaukee Business Journal reporter Sean Ryan.

Ryan said a likely factor is the city got a $14 million grant from the same federal program a few years ago to extend the rails down to the lakefront, specifically to the Couture apartment tower. So far, the city doesn’t have anything to show for that money. The building hasn’t even gone up.

As for Phase 3 of the streetcar to Fiserv Forum, federal dollars aren’t Milwaukee’s only issue.

“The city hasn't really locked in what would be the local financing that would go toward the extension to the arena yet,” Ryan said.

This isn’t the first time the project hasn’t been awarded federal money. Mayor Tom Barrett said they’ll definitely give it another go.

"We remain optimistic and I think what's going to happen is, as more and more people ride it, the federal government is going to see this is an investment that's well worth making,” Barrett said.

This means having the streetcar extended to Fiserv Forum by the summer of 2020 is a long shot at best, but it will be the next phase of the project as the lakefront extension is already underway.