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Contractor interest in Milwaukee streetcar project larger than officials expected

By: Alex Zank, [email protected]//June 10, 2016//

Contractor interest in Milwaukee streetcar project larger than officials expected

By: Alex Zank, [email protected]//June 10, 2016//

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Milwaukee has received more interest than expected from contractors vying to serve as construction manager for the city’s downtown streetcar project.

Ghassan Korban, commissioner of the city’s Department of Public Works, would not reveal Friday the exact number of responses the city has received to a request for proposals issued in April for the project, but did go on to say the interest had been “significant.” Information collected by The Daily Reporter’s JobTrac bidding service shows at least 19 contractors have shown an interest in the project.

“(The number) exceeded our expectations, so we are very happy,” Korban said on Friday during a meeting of Milwaukee’s Joint Committee on Downtown Streetcar Implementation.

The $124 million streetcar line would initially consist of a 2.1-mile loop in the city’s downtown, but city officials plan on adding at least two extensions that would run to nearby neighborhoods. The first would go to the city’s lakefront, and the second would head north on North 4th Street to West Highland Avenue.

The proposals for work on the streetcar line’s central loop were due June 1. John Duggan, senior vice president of the construction consulting firm The Concord Group, said the submissions that were received are still under review.

The city’s receiving more interest than expected makes two important statements about the streetcar, Korban said after the meeting.

“It shows the project is worthy of national interest,” he said, adding, “it gives us more options, and we are given more opportunity to be more selective.”

As for the proposed extensions, each would stop at or near other large commercial developments that are in the works. The Couture, a planned 44-story apartment and retail high-rise, would have a stop on the lakefront line extension, and the 4th Street extension would reach the southeast corner of the new arena being built for the Milwaukee Bucks.

The construction of the $524 million arena, led by M.A. Mortenson Co., of Golden Valley, Minn., is scheduled to begin with a groundbreaking event on June 18. Meanwhile, demolition work related to the $122 million Couture project is expected to start this fall.

Money for the streetcar project is coming largely from federal grants and tax increment financing. The lakefront extension, for instance, recently received a $14.2 million federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery, or TIGER, grant. The city has separately applied for a TIGER grant for the second extension; the $20 million local officials are seeking would cover half the project costs.

City officials will face stiff competition for the federal grant. The U.S. Department of Transportation announced on Tuesday that it had received 585 applications requesting $9.3 billion worth of TIGER grant money. The federal program has a $500 million budget.

Korban said it’s not unusual for such a program to have less money available than what it receives in requests. He said he thinks the city’s application makes a strong case for the proposed extension of the streetcar.


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