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Construction of rail lines to begin for Milwaukee Streetcar

Track installation for the first phase of the Milwaukee Streetcar will begin in late March with delivery of steel rail.

There will be 474 “sticks” of 80-foot rail for tracks along the Phase One route. These materials will arrive in batches over one to two weeks to five “drop” locations along the route.

“It will be very similar to street construction. If you didn’t know it was a streetcar, you would think it was road construction going on until the rails appear,” said Mike Ethier, project manager with Kiewit Corp., the general contractor hired to build the streetcar.” said Mike Ethier of Kiewit Infrastructure, the general contractor for the project.

The steel rails will be welded at each drop into longer track sections of up to 320 feet in length before being installed in streets. The first welding will start at the drop west of the Amtrak station on St. Paul Avenue shortly after delivery. Welding will then move to the other drops, with all welding for Phase 1 completed over about four weeks.

Actual track installation in the roadway is expected to begin in April 2017 on West St. Paul Avenue between Plankinton and 4th Street Track will be installed on other parts of the route starting later this spring and continue through 2018. To install the rail, trenches will be dug in the roadway 26-inches deep, and approximately 8- to 16-feet-wide, the rail is laid, concrete is poured around it, and asphalt is used to match the existing roadway outside the track zone, leaving the tracks flush with the roadway. The width of the trench varies depending on whether one or two track slabs are being constructed.

In the spring, crews will also begin drilling and pouring foundations for some of the poles that will carry the cabling for the overhead contact system (OCS) that brings power to the vehicles throughout the route. The OCS poles and cabling will be installed at a separate time to be determined. During track construction, utility crews will continue to rebuild and relocate facilities as needed.

“I would be surprised if anybody who lives on the route would be unaware of this project. We are continuing to talk to local stakeholders, and although we have a good handle on schedules and needs, we are always open to make revisions,” said Ghassan Korban, commissioner of the Department of Public Works. “We are going to see excitement along the route. It is going to start to evolve and be built. The locations were selected thoughtfully in order to avoid pulling those long track pieces around corners. Where they are stored they are aligned in the direction they are headed to.”

Milwaukee residents will be employed on much of the construction. The project has a goal of employing at least 40% Milwaukee residents (RPP) and contracting 21% DBEs (Disadvantaged Business Enterprises). The city is working closely with business associations, businesses and property owners to make travel and access as easy as possible during construction, as it does with other road construction projects.

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