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Common Council okays $124 million streetcar project, Barrett signs legislation to move it forward

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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.

READ IT: Common Council President Michael Murphy statement on approval of streetcar

CLICK HERE to learn more about the proposed downtown streetcar project.

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  • Jen

    There are so many other needs for this money and THIS is what it’s used for? Glad to see where the priorities are. What a joke!

      • rebelrocker

        Jenerator3, are you serious? How about the fact that MPS is one of the worst schools in the nation? How about re-building the crumbling infrastructure?

      • JokeEnthusiast

        People who live in apartments pay rent which in turn pays for property taxes on the buildings they live in. I may be a degenerate Max, but you’re an idiot.

    • NikkiDial14

      Taxes are high on residences because there are not enough businesses to support the social programs and parks in Milwaukee. You need business tax to offset the residential taxes. You have to boost the income for the city and the streetcar will boost business development. To not fund the streetcar is shortsighted.

  • Michael

    Today Barrett summed up the ignorance of Milwaukee voter. Barrett —> qw’ve had a election to vote out those on the common Council, and Aldermen that went along with the first vote for the Street Car. They were all coted back in. So Milwaukee must want this to move forward. Although I do think this will be a disaster. Sometimes people have to learn the hard way. The Milwaukee tax payer, and business owner will. Some more then others. Black people in Milwaukee a hard question seeing Tom Barrett say’s you wanted the Trolly. How are you going to benefit? You do realize this will mean some bus line’s will be eliminated? It mean’s bus fare’s will rise. How will that help your communitty? Tom Barrett got his train, and the Milwaukee tax payer will pay for it. One way or another. Abandon Milwaukee while you still can.

  • Rommel571

    This will be fun to watch. Cost over runs. Downtown all torn up. People avoiding going downtown. This may just benefit some outlying businesses…especially bars and restaurants. I know I will avoid downtown for several years. For most people to use this street car you need to drive downtown, park, then get on it. There is limited parking to begin with. I just hope the people who live downtown will use it enough so the rest of us don’t need to subsidize it for it’s lack of riders and loss of money.


    With the nation in debt over 18 trillion and actual job uc rate over 12% this should is really another micro foggy bottom administration. Who cares all the big names have their skin in the game and will get what they want. Like a little verouka salt….I want it and want it now. They will sit back and admire their train set as it plows through the snow drifts carrying millenial passengers on the paid to ride program as part of their condo association agreement. Meanwhile back at the retirement and residence farm, everyone is in rags and eating noodles so they can pay their real estate taxes. LOL ROFL.

    • SinghaThai

      One thing you could do is visit a city with a streetcar and see the impact it has. You could visit Baltimore. Their inner harbor area was in rough shape before the streetcar and its totally revitalized now. San Francisco streetcars are known the world over and draw tourists from everywhere. Boston, too. Washington DC is building theirs as well, its completely created an economic boom there.

  • Max

    Hey city of Milwaukee let’s fix the streets first you greedy pigs your City Hall is a piece of garbage you spent all this money on it while the citizens of Milwaukee need a hummer just to drive down the street because it’s so bumpy.

  • Really!?!

    What a crock! The jobs are only going to last until the project is done. Fix the present transit system. Finish fixing the roads. After that’s done maybe people will want to come here because they’ll be able to get around easier.

  • I haz Wiscansin edumacation thx to idiotic politishuns!

    MCTS buses get people to and from downtown just fine (I know…I’m a frequent flyer). Why the hell is a streetcar needed??? WAKE UP MILWAUKEE! DEMAND that our taxpayer money gets used for better projects like urban revitalization or funding to help innocent victims of theft!

  • Jimmy Dean

    If Walker had accepted the Hard Rock Casino offer to pay $220+ million for the new arena Milwaukee needs, then the $120M wouldn’t be such a big deal. With the improvements planned for the lakefront and the possibility of expansion this is needed to make Milwaukee a destination for business and tourism.

  • Reality

    LOL the WITI web trolls reported my comment AGAIN! (3rd time) and all I said was “This is great news, I’m glad all you people moved too.” nothing wrong with that. You tout your happiness since moving and I share in that happiness now that your gone

  • Rommel571

    This is silly. I can walk very easily the entire downtown area. I used to walk from UWM to Brady St. then down to Water and Old World Third st. Maybe if we encouraged more people to walk to their destinations we’d be a much skinnier and healthier city. Form the Nomad on Brady to The Harp on Juneau is only 1 mile. But my walks didn’t turn out to be all that ‘Healthy”. :)

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