MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- The controversial downtown Milwaukee streetcar project has received approval from the Milwaukee Common Council, and following that vote on Tuesday, February 10th, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett signed legislation to move the nearly $124 million project forward. So what's next?
The Amtrak Station in downtown Milwaukee is the starting point for Milwaukee's streetcar. It's a project that's been decades in the making.
"Today is truly an historic day for our city," Mayor Barrett said.
With the stroke of his pen, Milwaukee's downtown streetcar project moves forward.
"It's about creating jobs. It's about building the tax base and it's about making Milwaukee a competitive city," Mayor Barrett said.
City leaders will now begin finalizing the streetcar's design -- making final utility adjustments and purchasing the street cars.
"We'll be phasing the project in such a way that we're trying to minimize any impact to downtown businesses," City Engineer Jeff Polenske said.
Polenske says major construction of the track could start in 2016.
"We're gonna be reaching out to the business owners, talking to them about their individual needs, and we'll set up our plan for construction based on that," Polenske said.
Polenske says the track's construction should be less disruptive than a typical roadway project. Instead of working curb to curb, they'll be working on a ten-foot segment of road.
Opponents of the project say not so fast.
"I think that there are some more alternatives out there that are more cutting edge," Alderman Bob Donovan said.
Donovan says he'll continue collecting signatures in the ongoing petition drive against the streetcar. Citizens for Responsible Government is leading the charge to bring the issue to a referendum.
This, as supporters are already looking beyond the initial 2.5-mile downtown route to expansions to UW-Milwaukee, Marquette University and the Bronzeville neighborhood.
On the eve of the Common Council's vote on the streetcar, prominent Milwaukee business leaders showed their support for the project, but the owner of an Ogden salon along the initial route says she's nervous about the coming change.
"I don`t believe there is enough people that will actually use it, that it`s gonna increase our business. I feel like while we`re under construction it will hurt our business," Elizabeth D'Acquisto said.
Mayor Barrett says he hopes passengers can start boarding the streetcar in late 2017 or early 2018. The Federal Transit Administration will be in Milwaukee next week to handle any technical questions.
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