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City moves forward on streetcar expansion plans with The Hop for 2020 DNC and beyond

Mayor Tom Barrett and Common Council members gathered with local business leaders in Bronzeville on May 2 to announce the city’s proposal for expansion of the streetcar line ahead of the 2020 Democratic National Convention.

The press conference took place at Gee’s Clippers, which would be along the northern route of the new King Drive extension. The plan seeks to add 2.4 miles to the existing 2.1-mile streetcar system, but it must first be approved by the Common Council. Mayor Barrett said that one part of the extension, connecting to convention center, would $28 million and be funded through the current district tax system.

“Our vision for the streetcar from the very beginning has been as a catalyst for economic growth that would positively impact the heart of the city and then continue into the neighborhoods,” said Mayor Barrett. “What we are outlining with this plan is a critical next step in fulfilling that promise and ensuring that the momentum we’re seeing downtown continues to spread to Bronzeville, Walker’s Point and beyond. Now is the time for us to capitalize on the progress we’ve made and commit to an even brighter future for Milwaukee.”

The $124 million streetcar began its operations in November. The first phase of the resolution involves a $28 million extension of the existing M-Line north along Vel R. Phillips Avenue and Fifth Street to Wisconsin Avenue to provide a direct connection to the Convention Center and additional Westown destinations.

Under the current proposal, construction would begin in Fall 2019 and be completed in Spring 2020, with the extension operational in advance of the 2020 Democratic National Convention – an event expected to attract over 50,000 visitors to Milwaukee and upwards of $200 million in economic impact for the city.

Completing the critical connection to the Convention Center positions Milwaukee to showcase itself as a dynamic, connected city for a global audience next summer, and is an important step in fulfilling the streetcar’s promise of connecting additional communities to downtown’s progress.

To make the connections to Bronzeville and Walker’s Point a reality – a fundamental goal of the streetcar project since its inception – the resolution also commits $18.8 million towards project development work including planning, environmental studies and engineering. That work will advance the proposed route expansion into the Federal Transit Administration’s Capital Improvement Grant Program, positioning The Hop to receive future federal funding from a predictable, transit-specific program to advance the system.

The full three-mile extension, which would have a northern terminus at King Drive and North Avenue, and a southern terminus at First Street and Pittsburgh Avenue, would support further economic development and small business growth in both the Bronzeville and Walker’s Point neighborhoods.

“The extensions are the first step in bringing the streetcar beyond downtown and into the community, and it is something that I have supported all along,” said Alderwoman Coggs, who represents the Bronzeville neighborhood. “I look forward to residents, business owners, and neighborhood stakeholders benefitting from it, and I think there is a palpable degree of excitement about it in the community.”

The City of Milwaukee spent more than 13 months conducting a Transit Oriented Design study with regular public feedback sessions in Bronzeville and in Walker’s Point, and the input received during those sessions is helping to guide the work going into planning the streetcar extensions,.

“The impact of extending the streetcar has been laid out in the city’s sessions, and the public has provided helpful comments and feedback that will ultimately help to ensure that those living along and near the streetcar route will benefit and feel the positive impact to the community,” added Alderwoman Coggs.

Alderman José G. Pérez, representing the 12th District, released a statement calling for the city to expand the southern route further to meet the needs of the Hispanic population. He wants to see the city commit to the planning and engineering work as part of the Walker’s Point route.

“Stopping the streetcar at 1st and Pittsburgh is simply not good enough. The streetcar line must be extended to 6th and National, the gateway to the Latino community,” said Alderman Pérez.

THE PROJECT: Wisconsin Avenue Extension

  • 0.4-mile M-Line extension along Vel R. Phillips Avenue and 5th Street
  • $28 million to complete final design and construction

SCHEDULE

  • July 2019: Complete utility agreements and commence construction
  • September 2019: Complete streetcar final design
  • October 2019: Commence streetcar construction
  • May 2020: Complete construction
  • May-June 2020: Operations testing
  • July 2020: Passenger service

THE PROJECT: Bronzeville and Walker’s Point Extension

  • 3.0-mile route between Bronzeville and Walker’s Point (2.4 miles using new track)
  • Total project cost is approximately $150M-$160M (Planning Estimate)

SCHEDULE

  • Summer 2020: Common Council meeting
  • Spring/Summer 2022: Receive federal funding grant and begin construction
  • 2024: Open for passenger service
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Lee Matz

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