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Mayor Barrett pushes to extend streetcar line

Posted at 5:55 PM, May 02, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-02 18:55:51-04

MILWAUKEE — Mayor Tom Barrett announced a "bold proposal" to extend the streetcar line past downtown.

While surrounded by community and business leaders, Barrett proposed a $46.8 million package to make the expansion happen.

In a press release, his team said the dollar figure includes $20 million previously approved by Common Council in 2016. It also stated the package relies on amending tax increment districts along the proposed route.

The release said the work would include $20 million pushing the streetcar line to Wisconsin Ave. and connecting to the Convention Center. It would also commit $18.8 million for planning, environmental studies and engineering to make the connection to Walker's Point and Bronzeville.

The Wisconsin Ave. connection would be completed in time for the Democratic National Convention in July 2020.

Barrett told reporters ultimately the work will cost $150-160 million and with the hope of getting a 50% match from federal funding. He said making a "local commitment" would show Milwaukee as a competitive city for federal money geared toward transit.

Barrett repeatedly said this move was about spurring economic development.

"When this first started people said this is controversial," Barrett said. "I understand it’s controversial but the debate would change to how do we get it extended? I’ve had far more people ask me about getting it extended over the last six months because they’re seeing people ride this and our ridership numbers are higher than projected."

Not everyone was on board with the mayor's vision.

"I think that’s bad fiscal policy for the city all during the same time when we can’t pave our roads, when we can’t provide safety and security in an increasing number of our neighborhoods," said Alderman Bob Donovan.

People who work in Bronzeville sounded optimistic about the potential impact.

Jewels Caribbean Restaurant moved into Bronzeville last Decemeber.

"I think some people are not aware that we are here as well as some other great spaces," said Natasha Jules, co-owner of Jewels Caribbean Restaurant.

Jules said her only concern was construction, but that the end goal would be worth the temporary trouble.

"I’ve been hearing about it for about two years," said Jarrin Hicks, a barber at First Impressions Barber Salon just a few doors down. "I think it’s a pretty good idea. Help folks get back-and-forth bring more traffic through."

The mayor's proposal will head to committee and the Common Council by the end of May.