The U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT) and Federal Transit Administration (FTA) announced the award of a $40.9 million grant to Milwaukee County on December 14, clearing the way for the East-West Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project to move forward.

The Small Starts Grant Agreement (SSGA) was a significant milestone achievement because it finalized the federal government’s commitment to cover almost 80 percent of the $55.05 million project.

“We appreciate the FTA’s commitment to helping improve transit infrastructure here in southeast Wisconsin,” said Dan Boehm, MCTS Managing Director. “Our team has worked hard to move this project from concept to implementation. We’re looking forward to breaking ground on station construction this Spring so that current and new riders will soon be able to experience the future of public transportation.”

The nine-mile East-West BRT, which will be a first-of-its-kind undertaking in Wisconsin, is projected to allow MCTS to better connect major employment, education, and recreation destinations through downtown Milwaukee, Marquette University, Milwaukee’s Near West Side, Wauwatosa, and the Milwaukee Regional Medical Center.

“This is great news for Milwaukee County and our state,” said Governor Tony Evers. “The East-West BRT will help ensure more access to reliable transportation and make it easier for folks to get to work, home, and school. I appreciate the work of our local, state, and federal partners to make this project possible.”

BRT passengers can expect a more efficient, higher frequency service thanks to the utilization of battery-electric buses, dedicated bus lanes, traffic signal priority, off-board fare collection, optimized stop locations, state-of-the-art platforms that allow for easy boarding, and other innovative amenities.

“I am a strong supporter of this investment from the Federal Transit Administration in Milwaukee County’s public transportation system,” said U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin. “This federal funding will support a collaboration led by the County to move forward on the state’s first Bus Rapid Transit project. The East-West BRT is an exciting development and will provide services to the community that better connect people with major employment, education, and recreation destinations.”

Since 2016, Milwaukee County has been working collaboratively with the FTA, City of Milwaukee, City of Wauwatosa, Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT), Milwaukee Regional Medical Center (MRMC), Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission (SEWRPC), residents, businesses, non-profits and other institutions — to bring this innovative project to the state.

“I could not be more pleased with this fantastic news regarding final federal approval of an additional transportation option for my constituents and the residents of Milwaukee County,” said Congresswoman Gwen Moore. “I applaud the efforts by Milwaukee County, MCTS, and the Federal Transit Administration to bring the project to life. Strong, reliable public transit is critical for our region and I look forward to building on this project’s momentum.”

The BRT project team recently released a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) as part of the process to secure a construction contractor. Additionally, the project team is currently working to select a manufacturer for 11 battery-electric buses. This will be the first time these ultra-modern vehicles are used in southeast Wisconsin.

“This historic project is an example of how – with the Federal Transit Administration’s support – Milwaukee County is investing in equity and bridging the gap in racial disparities across the board,” said Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley. “Being able to get from point A to point B is essential for Milwaukee County residents trying to access all the opportunities the county has to offer and enjoy a high quality of life. Bus Rapid Transit will strengthen our entire transit network and move Milwaukee County closer to fulfilling its vision of achieving racial equity and becoming the healthiest county in Wisconsin.”

Construction is slated to begin in Spring 2021, with revenue service starting as early as Fall 2022.

“The news of federal support for the BRT project is a welcome step forward as we seek to improve MCTS service,” said Marcelia Nicholson, Chairwoman of Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors. “The BRT will help get more people to good paying jobs and improve efficiency of bus service in my district, and we’re excited to implement this new route.”

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Milwaukee County