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Feds sign off on environmental review of Milwaukee’s $53M rapid transit line

Federal officials have signed off on an environmental review of Milwaukee’s first rapid-transit bus line, marking a milestone for the project.

The Federal Transit Administration on Thursday completed a review of an environmental assessment of the proposed bus line, which would connect downtown Milwaukee with the Milwaukee Regional Medical Center in Wauwautosa. In doing so, the administration issued a finding of No Significant Impact, allowing the project to proceed. The agency took into account public comments and the project’s compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act.

The project is getting $7 million from appropriation made by the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors in the 2019 county budget. Money is also coming from a Federal Transit Administration grant, which is providing $37.2 million, and the Milwaukee Regional Medical Center, which is contributing $4.5 million.

The project’s $53 million price tag takes into account the cost of buying buses, building 20 rapid-transit platforms and setting aside bus-only lanes. The route would start at a transit center called for in the plans for The Couture high-rise, which is to be built at the corner of Lincoln Memorial Drive and East Michigan Street in downtown Milwaukee, and end at the Milwaukee Regional Medical Center, in Wauwautosa.

“This is an important step in making this project a reality,” County Executive Chris Abele said in a statement Friday.  “This decision by FTA gives me confidence that federal funding will become available to deliver this significant regional project that can be expanded to other areas of the county and the region.”

The project now moves to its final design and construction phases. The design work is expected to wrap up at the end of 2019 and construction is expected to begin in 2020. Officials expect the service to begin in spring 2021.

About Nate Beck, [email protected]

Nate Beck is The Daily Reporter's construction staff writer. He can be reached at (414) 225-1814 (office) or 414-388-5635 (mobile).

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