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Feds pass up Milwaukee streetcar expansion to Fiserv Forum

The city of Milwaukee has missed out on a federal transportation grant to extend its streetcar line to the recently completed Fiserv Forum.

Milwaukee had sought a federal BUILD grant to pay for half of the $40 million cost to extend its 2.1-mile streetcar route to the Bucks arena, along Vel R. Philips Avenue. Officials hoped to have the route running in time for the 2020 Democratic National Convention, which the city is competing for.

This year, federal officials awarded $1.5 billion worth of BUILD transportation grants to 91 projects throughout the country. Milwaukee’s entry in October was one of 851 proposals. The only project in Wisconsin to win a federal BUILD grant was a $19.8 million proposal calling for the construction of an interchange on Highway 29 in Brown County.

“We’re certainly disappointed that The Hop was not awarded a BUILD grant, but with the initial success of the system we remain very optimistic about the future of the project and the prospects for expansion,” said Jeffrey Polenske, Milwaukee Public Works commissioner, in a statement. “We’re continuing to move forward with our preliminary engineering and utility coordination activities for the extension towards Bronzeville and will continue seeking out additional funding sources to move the project forward.”

Should the Fiserv extension eventually be built, next up for the streetcar would be a line running along North Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive to North Avenue in Milwaukee’s Bronzeville neighborhood. A recent study paid for using a Federal Transit Administration grant looked at how the city might balance new development along the proposed extension with a desire to preserve the “character” of the Bronzeville neighborhood.

The $124 million streetcar opened in November with a downtown route. Cars are to start running on an additional lakefront loop following the completion of a transit hub to be built in the ground floor of the planned Couture high rise at the corner of East Michigan Street and North Lincoln Memorial Drive. The lakefront loop is benefiting from a $14.2 million federal U.S. Department of Transportation grant the city won in 2015 after seeing a previous application passed over.

About Nate Beck, nbeck@dailyreporter.com

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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