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Barrett wants to up the downtown streetcar project’s budget to $114M; construction could begin in 2015

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MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- Critics say a proposed streetcar project in Milwaukee is going way off the tracks. This, after Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett announces the budget for the project will nearly double.

Alderman Bob Donovan says he feels Milwaukee taxpayers are being taken for a ride.

"It was a ridiculous idea to begin with," Alderman Donovan said.

Originally, the project was set to cost roughly $65 million. The streetcar would loop through downtown Milwaukee.

In an interview Tuesday, November 18th with the Milwaukee Business Journal, Mayor Barrett said he'd like to up the budget to $114 million.

"We feel this is an exciting time for Milwaukee. We think there is a lot of momentum and we want the momentum to not only continue, but to accelerate," Mayor Barrett told the Business Journal.

The proposal increases the project to 4.6 miles of track and adds a stretch along the lakefront. It would be paid for using property tax increases generated by businesses and properties along the proposed line. The additional dollars would be used to potentially cover relocating underground utilities for the streetcar.

On Monday, November 17th, the city filed a lawsuit against the state's Public Service Commission after the group ruled the city must pay to move the lines at a cost of $25 million.

"That doesn`t even take into consideration what the maintenance costs, the operating costs down the road will be," Alderman Donovan said.

Donovan says aldermen have yet to hear an official proposal on the project, and while he's running for mayor against Barrett in 2016, he says there are lots of other ways to spend $100 million.

"I continually hear from people, 'Bob, why don`t we pave the roads before we start buying tracks and street cars downtown?'" Alderman Donovan said.

Construction on the downtown streetcar could begin by late 2015.

Alderman Donovan expects to vote on the issue in December.

FOX6 News reached out to the Mayor's Office for comment on this story -- but we did not hear back by deadline.

Alderman Donovan issued this statement on Wednesday, November 19th:

"It shouldn’t surprise anyone that, as reported yesterday by the Business Journal, the mayor is doubling down, and doubling the price of, the downtown streetcar.

If there’s any institution that can give us something we don’t want for twice the price, it’s government. But sadly, this speaks volumes as to just how out of touch the mayor is with average citizens—the same citizens who, of course, never wanted this streetcar to begin with.

All this is happening at a time when Milwaukee is facing monumental challenges, which sadly remain largely unaddressed.

When was the last time you heard the mayor say anything about MPS? What is the mayor proposing for the chronic, embarrassing and, yes, scandalous unemployment in Milwaukee’s inner city? And that’s not even to mention our continued neighborhood disorder and public safety problems.

It’s my understanding that the mayor’s ill-advised streetcar proposal will be introduced next week, and that he’s demanding a vote on it within the next several weeks. I’m urging citizens to contact their alderman and express their displeasure.

The mayor appears bound and determined, no matter what the cost, to shove this down the throats of our citizens!

I’m told the operating cost estimates have skyrocketed. How are we going to pay for that? How are we going to pay for maintenance? None of these things have even been mentioned and you can almost hear a pin drop in the mayor’s office when these concerns are raised.

The mayor may indeed view the streetcar as his legacy to Milwaukee. But if this goes through, he’ll be leaving more than just a streetcar. He’ll be leaving each and every one of us with a decades-long hangover."

CLICK HERE to read more on this story from the Milwaukee Business Journal.


  • Semper Fidelis, USMC

    Take $49 million and make a manufacturing company so people have JOBS, don’t need a train, stupid idea for a stupid mayor that should step down.

    • George

      Are you suggesting the city start creating companies? The function of our government in our society is to build and maintain infrastructure and provide public services. I think you are confusing America with a communist country like China that has state-owned companies. I am curious; what would your City owned manufacturing company make?

      • armea

        yes! what’s the point of wasting money–On a poor city who can’t even afford to ride the train in the first place. There are needs that need to be fulfilled first. A train is the last thing this broken city needs. The whole city of Milwaukee streets is destroyed—-and he talking about a train?!!!- IT DONT TAKE A 1ST GRADER TO SEE THIS IS NOT ONLY THE STUPIDEST THING THE MAJOR HAVE SAID BUT ITS DISRESPECTFUL—SOMETHING FUNNY GOING!!!!!!!!–I TALK TO THE MAJOR IN PERSON AND A MAN THAT WORK FOR HIM–HE KNOW FOR A FACT –FROM THE WORDS OUT HIS OWN MOUTH–THIS CITY NEEDS HELP IN OTHER AREAS 1ST!!!!!!!!!

      • R

        Fairly certain George is the local mouthpiece for the construction union. Arrogant, smug, out of touch with any kind of reality, and using a public computer to comment on Fox6’s website during working hours. Sorry, guess that’s “union lunch break” in layman’s terms.

        Hey Georgie Porgie, how ’bout you guys finish 27th street before you dig up downtown for another project to line your pockets with?

  • JC

    What the hell is with trains and this city. It will never be self sufficient so scrap this ideal and pave the roads so we could drive here with the money.

    • JC

      No George I don’t hate America but what I do hate is wasteful spending of tax dollars for a program that will never be self sufficient and rely on the taxpayers that don’t use it to cover the costs. One could say you hate America because this isn’t free enterprise it’s socialist government pushing their agenda on the people. Bottom line if it has to be supported by government funds I don’t want it, if it can be profitable or just break even go ahead but it can’t be profitable in this market.

    • R


      How much energy do liberals exert simply trying to defend their stupidity? You don’t need a masters degree in civil engineering to understand this is a TERRIBLE idea.

  • George

    Glad to see this is finally getting done! Milwaukee needs projects like this to attract new companies to Wisconsin. Cities like Denver and Austin are expanding at such rapid rates and what do you know, public transportation is a viable means for commuting in these places (BOTH have street cars)! When you remove the expense of having to own a car (or two) peoples’ quality of life goes us without having to raise their pay. We have to invest in the infrastructure to compete with other growing cities for companies to bring their operations here. I suspect all negative views of such convenience come from people who don’t actually live in Milwaukee or care about attracting companies to Wisconsin.

    • armea

      Yes a project that help the people fist. Train project is the stupidest thing I ever heard for this poor crime filled no job no good place to go to have good time with family. Why build a train to attract people to a destroyed city?? Once they come in the new train, they going to step out the train-see how messed and boring Milwaukee is–then run to the 1st new $billion dollar train–Heading out Milwaukee. This sound so stupid–It sound like the Major is up to no good for me and everyone else in Milwaukee. We need help in Milwaukee!!!!!! a billion train is the VERY LAST THING WE NEED!!! IT’S NOT BRAIN SCIENCE

      • MkeLover

        It’s not “BRAIN SCIENCE”? “This sound so stupid-It sound like the Major is up to no good…”. You sure are brave for calling something for being stupid.

    • R

      Attract new companies? You must be kidding. There’s nothing going on in that area. And we should do this because Austin and Denver have trolleys? You know who else had a trolley? MILWAUKEE. WE GOT RID OF IT BECAUSE NOBODY RODE IT.
      Now you’re getting to the point of digging up the roads and relocating EVERY SINGLE VITAL ENERGY INFRASTRUCTURE THAT RUNS UNDER THE EXACT PROPOSED TROLLEY LINE. Who’s going to pay for this? WE Energies? Get real, a relocation necessitated by the idiots at city hall comes at the taxpayer expense. This is in addition to the idiotic new Bucks arena they want to build and bill to the taxpayer (How many times has Miller Park supposed to have been paid off by now?) on top of building and relocation fees for this stupid trolley.

      I don’t understand how liberals aren’t just exhausted from the amount of energy you have to exert avidly trying to come up with dumber and dumber ideas. Things that run completely contrary to any common sense but you think the people should embrace with open arms that make no sense whatsoever.

  • armea


  • dancing in the ruins

    see mayor mccheese? this is why the working people who pay taxes are moving out of milwaukee county – because of YOU and your clueless stupidity. what are you going to do when all the taxpayers are gone? who is going to fund your choo-choo then? ****ing idiot.

    • armea

      Dancing in the ruin–It’s a scam–So they will go into state Billion budget—Even tho U.S.A is in a TRILLION $$$ DEBT—–SOMETHING FUUNY GOING ON AT OUR EXPENSES. PEOPLE KEEP YOUR EYE ON OUR GOVERMENT!!!!! Just like they got their eye on us. Stand strong for what is right—-Never give up!

  • dancing in the ruins

    just gotta wonder who is really behind this effort and how much are they lining barrett’s pockets with.

  • armea

    If this country is in a trillion$ debt–how spending 115 million on a train going to help??? If that’s the case why don’t you give every descent people like me $2,000 to help take care of family and bills. Now that is very helpful for everyone. Not a train most people in Milwaukee can’t afford to ride. We need to fight as hard as we can to get leaders who do the right thing for the people of Milwaukee and not just themselves. It’s only going to hurt the leaders of Milwaukee and the people of Milwaukee. The people of Milwaukee is not going to keep putting up with people doing the wrong thing. No one in this world in that case will keep putting up with wrong doing.

  • hscorpio

    If history is any guide, the nearly doubled price jump will not be the last cost increase. Increased property tax revenue along the line will not come close to covering this, and future, cost increases.

    If not for Act 10, this would be a budget buster. But the city can easily find the extra cash with Act 10’s reforms. So if the citizens of the city of Milwaukee (I’m not one) are ok with putting a target on the compensation of their public sector employees, that’s their decision to make. But they shouldn’t let Tom Barrett Gruber them over where the money is going to come from.

  • dancing in the ruins

    so what a second… it’s not going to serve the inner city? i’m just curious what those folks think about that… isn’t this racist? i mean, remember the stink they put up about that marathon that wasn’t going to run through their part of town?

  • PH

    Note to Tom Barrett: Please step down, the people of Milwaukee are tired of your follies with the street-car. It is a ridiculous project that no-one will use and it guaranteed to lose money.

  • Port Authority

    This is the dumbest thing this city could do. Streetcars are a novelty and in a city where eastward transportation is restricted by a lake and 6 months out of the year nobody wants to be out in the cold, I just don’t see why this project should even be discussed. Oh wait, I forgot it’s Barrett heading up this discussion. Too bad he wasn’t finished off after that evening of the State Fair a few years ago, this city would be much further ahead

  • Lilliany H.

    YES!!!!!! I LOVE THIS!
    Well, if your going to do it you might as well boom it! higher taxes indeed for the middle and upperclass. but, then again that is more tax revenue coming in the GOP.

Comments are closed.

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