MILWAUKEE (WITI) — The downtown Milwaukee streetcar project is moving forward. The Milwaukee Common Council on Tuesday, February 10th approved the controversial $124 million streetcar project that will connect downtown Milwaukee and the lower east side.
Mayor Tom Barrett on Tuesday afternoon signed legislation that clears the way for a downtown streetcar. This, as those opposed to the project say they'll still collect signatures in their ongoing petition drive to bring the issue to a referendum.
Supporters of the project are already looking ahead to possible expansions.
Alderman Bob Bauman says after 25 years of pushing for fixed rail transit, he calls Tuesday's Common Council vote "bittersweet."
"Because there have been so many opportunities missed, so much wasted money that`s been left on the table that could`ve benefited the community," Bauman said.
The Common Council approved the project in a 9-6 vote -- upholding a vote in January to approve the street car. A final vote had been delayed in order to give opponents more time to collect petition signatures. The petition drive continues, and those opposed to the nearly $124 million project say it is an entirely bitter defeat -- in large part because there was no referendum.
"We are poised to essentially slap these people down and say 'we want you to be involved, but certainly not on this issue. Just shut up. We know better,'" Alderman Bob Donovan said.
Supporters of the project are now looking beyond the initial 2.5-mile downtown route. The proposed extensions would take the streetcar to UW-Milwaukee, Marquette University, Bronzeville, and Walker's Point. This, as opponents wonder how the city would pay for it.
"According to the LRB, if we extend this whole project throughout the entire projected area, it would be close to a billion dollars -- $996 million, and with the cost overruns, I bet it would exceed $1 billion," Alderman Tony Zielinski said.
"So far, the feds have said 'when you guys have demonstrated you can actually build something in Milwaukee, give us a call because you do have an excellent route on paper,'" Bauman said.
Citizens for Responsible Government, the group organizing the petition drive against the streetcar says a little more than half of the 31,000 signatures needed to force the issue to a referendum have been collected. Volunteers are hoping to gather the remaining signatures by March 3rd. They say if it's too late to force a referendum on the initial streetcar construction, they at least want a referendum on any future expansion.
CLICK HERE to learn more about the proposed downtown streetcar project.
- Petition drive to put the brakes on Milwaukee streetcar project begins Tuesday evening
- Two aldermen unveil petition to force binding referendum on proposed streetcar project
- Fate of proposed streetcar in downtown Milwaukee on hold for another month
- Victory in committee Tuesday, followed by defeat Wednesday for downtown streetcar proposal
- “We’re good to go:” Committee approves two TIF districts to help fund downtown streetcar project
- “Milwaukee Downtown” backs streetcar project, Donovan again calls for referendum