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Fate of proposed streetcar in downtown Milwaukee on hold for another month

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MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- The final decision on the controversial Milwaukee streetcar proposal has been put on hold. On Tuesday morning, December 16th, the full Common Council was set to take a vote on the plan, which would lay more than four miles of track between downtown, the lakefront and the east side. However, the council voted to hold the resolution, meaning a vote now won't come until the council meets in January.

Milwaukee streetcarOn Tuesday, December 9th, the city’s Zoning, Neighborhood and Development Committee voted to approve two TIF (tax incremental financing) districts to help fund the streetcar project. On Wednesday, December 10th a streetcar resolution was defeated by the Public Works Committee — a victory for streetcar opponents.

On Tuesday, December 16th, five aldermen voted to delay a decision on the project until January 21st.

Bob Donovan

Bob Donovan

Alderman Bob Donovan has long been opposed to the project.

"I'm glad we did have the votes to hold it I would hope that over the next month perhaps we could change one or two minds here and put this to rest once and for all," said Donovan.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett says the effort to stall was not a surprise.

"Would I rather have had it pass today? Absolutely yes. Are we going to fold up the tent because of this vote today? Absolutely no. I think that the momentum will continue and we will get this through," said Barrett.

In the meantime, the debate will continue to rage about what the fallout would be if the project were shut down.

"I think you heard the developer for the couture say that without the streetcar he doesn't think that his project will go forward," said Barrett.

The $122 million Couture tower would be built on the site of the downtown transit center -- and plans call for a streetcar stop on the site. The Couture has become a favorite talking point for streetcar supporters who say failing to proceed with that project could put the Couture and others in jeopardy.

Bob Bauman

Bob Bauman

"Besides the Couture, there's a lot of real estate opportunities. I think the arena goes down too if this doesn't pass to be honest with you," said Alderman Bob Bauman.

Others see political theater at play.

"The streetcar wasn't even mentioned regarding the Couture until just recently. So I don't know what kind of shenanigans are going on here, but it doesn't smell right to me," said Donovan.

FOX6 News is told the decision on the streetcar can only be held for one cycle -- which means the streetcar's final fate will be voted on in January.

The proposed Milwaukee streetcar project could cost more than $98 million. That new figure was presented on December 4th to a city committee by the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission. Potential costs were assessed by comparing Milwaukee’s plan to streetcar systems in other cities.

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24 comments

    • Matt Logan

      No, it will pass because of the great opportunity we have to attract young talent to a city (and state) that would otherwise see no growth in young worker numbers. I am sorry if you lack the imagination required to understand the value of the streetcar and are only capable of calling people who do no “stupid”, but we need to consider the greater interest here, not your revulsion to transit.

      • JC

        Great opportunity for who? A few people that live downtown that would ride it on a regular basis, this would not be self sufficient and the majority of people do not want to spend tax money on it. I’m sorry that you can’t understand how the democratic process works. Government works for the people and the people have spoken, they do not want an increase in taxes to fund this. Spend the money on education or a better bus system anything but a trolley that would only be useful to a small percentage of the population.

      • Matt Logan

        “A few people that live downtown that would ride it on a regular basis, this would not be self sufficient and the majority of people do not want to spend tax money on it”

        No street is self sufficient. Only a few people use any single city street on a regular basis, and yet everyone believes they help grow the economy. If allowed to vote on every road project, I suspect nothing would ever get funded again.

        Streetcars are part of the economic development plan adopted by the City in 2010. Please don’t ask anymore questions like “who” would use this – it is all answered for you in the 2010 plan. I am sorry that you don’t understand the responsibilities of being part of an informed electorate.

  • get real

    Any member of city government who votes in favor of the streetcar should be voted out of office. By now the opinions of the people who will get stuck with paying the costs is well known.
    This should have gone to a referendum so that the people of Milwaukee could have their voices heard.
    The mayor and the common council have chosen to ignore the people they are supposed to serve.

  • Sharon Devitt

    Since when has Milwaukee been driven by the rich? The dumbass boring ball palace…oh yea it’s good for the lower classes–they can sell hot dogs and clean the latrines, part-time, minimum wage, seasonal labor. And the rich man’s trolley, Barrett’s FOLLY, which no one wants except for the RICH business men and political lackeys, is an even bigger waste than a sports center. The city needs education, REAL full time well paying jobs, and some COMMON SENSE not a kissbutt Common Council and a kiss up to the rich folks mayor.

    • Matt Logan

      I know for a fact you haven’t bothered to look up the return on investment of the streetcar compared to return of the orders-of-magnitude higher spending on highways. Face it, you hate transit, and no fact is going to change that. You want to force everyone to live like you do, and undermine the very freedom that the USMC is supposed to protect. Traitor!

      • Matt Logan

        Ok, “traitor” is an extreme characterization, since you probably don’t understand the consequences of what you are doing. Perhaps a better way of putting it is: don’t criticize until you have ridden a mile on someone else’s tracks.

  • PH

    The only people I can think who want this trolley are: Construction for the trolley lines and the company who gets the bid to make the trolley cars. I just don’t see people using it. Where exactly would you go on the trolley that you can’t do right now with a car?

    • Matt Logan

      You now know me, so now you know someone besides a construction worker who supports this. And let me tell you, and a lifetime user of alternative modes of transportation, I can think of plenty of ways I would use this in ways that would be more effective than the burden imposed by owning and operating an automobile. For starters, the demographic this is intended to attract is not you (whom I am guessing is a suburbanite who has chosen to live far from your daily needs, and therefore you have sunk costs that prevent you from avoiding the burden of an automobile). Think younger people here – who have not invested in a home in the suburbs, who probably don’t own a car yet, and who uses transit, taxi’s and some type of car sharing service, and has come to realize that they are actually more efficient in that mode than to invest in an automobile.

      So if you do not own a car in the first place, the argument about a streetcar not providing access that a car does not is irrelevant.

  • Sheila Moyet

    Come on people…Milwaukee is turning into a cesspool of crime and violence. Put this money where it is more needed. If you really care about the city, use this money for more important needs.

    • Big D

      This is Barrett’s final flip off to Milwaukee taxpayers before he declines to run in 2016 as he would finally lose. His legacy is that he has screwed over Milwaukee big time. High crime rate, poverty level ,poor city services, thanks for the memories Tom. WE will all live with the results of your incompetence for years to come.

  • D A L

    It’s amazing how Alderman Bohl was against the street car but after the Mayor appoints him to a committee making another 18 thousand a year he is mum on the street car. Investigate that! Let the people decide, it’s there money. What is the common council affraid of?

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