Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett on Thursday rolled out a $46.8 million plan to extend the city’s streetcar to the Wisconsin Center District convention center and the city’s lakefront in time for the 2020 Democratic National Convention.
Barrett said he will propose extending the streetcar route to Wisconsin Avenue by next summer. Looking even farther ahead, he called for setting money aside for engineering work to send the streetcar to the city’s Bronzeville neighborhood to the north and Walker’s Point to the south.
If the streetcar, called The Hop, is eventually extended to the two neighborhoods, it would end up with about 2.4 miles added to its existing 2.1-mile route.
The proposed 0.4-mile extension to Wisconsin Avenue would bring streetcar service within blocks of the recently completed Fiserv Forum, which will be one of the central venues during the 2020 DNC. Estimates peg the price at $28 million for taking the route north from St. Paul Avenue along Phillips Avenue and then having it turn through a vacant lot on Wisconsin Avenue and jog south on 5th Street to St. Paul.
Tracks have meanwhile already been laid for a loop running to the city’s lakefront. That route relies on a transit center proposed as part of the Couture high-rise development, which is planned for the corner of Michigan Street and Lincoln Memorial Drive.
If Barrett’s plan gained approval from the Milwaukee Common Council, construction could begin this fall. Utility work and laying down track could begin in early 2020.
Barrett plans to pay for the streetcar extension by amending six existing Tax Increment Financing districts, which would keep the project cost from affecting the local tax levy. The proposed extensions into Bronzeville and Walker’s point would also rely on TIF districts, as well as grant money the city hopes to receive from the federal government for transit projects.
In December, Milwaukee missed out on a federal BUILD grant to pay for half of the $40 million cost to extend its 2.1-mile streetcar route to the Fiserv Forum, along Vel R. Philips Avenue.
The city’s $124 million existing streetcar system relied on $55 million in federal grants to complete. Crews laid track on city streets and installed overhead wires, built 18 stations and a maintenance facility to outfit the route for five streetcars, which began running late last year.Follow @natebeck9