September 25, 2023

Milwaukee continues streetcar extension plans regardless of new funding obstacles

The streetcar headed southbound alongside North Broadway.

The Metropolis of Milwaukee is transferring ahead with planning for 4 completely different streetcar extensions.

Though funding has develop into extra sophisticated as a result of new state laws, the town is hoping to safe federal funding for a $150 million extension of The Hop streetcar system north to Fiserv Discussion board and northeast to Brady Avenue at Farwell and Prospect Avenues.

Earlier this week, the Steering & Guidelines Committee directed the Division of Public Works to use for a federal grant to fund the long-planned extensions. Moreover, DPW would start the planning course of for 2 different extensions, one to the Bronzeville district and one to the Walker’s Level neighborhood.

“That is mainly a decision that directs the commissioner (of the Division of Public Works) to pursue what we had supposed to perform in 2011 and 2015,” mentioned Alderman Robert Bauman, who represents the downtown space.

These stretches of the streetcar had been first proposed nearly a decade in the past, however weren’t constructed as a result of the town’s federal grant didn’t provide sufficient funding.

Now, the town is attempting once more in search of a special federal grant, hoping to get 70% of the fee lined from a Small Begins Grant because the bipartisan infrastructure invoice has made extra funding obtainable.

That’s in accordance with metropolis engineer Kevin Muhs, who mentioned the town would fare effectively in grant scoring for job density and jobs served by the extensions, however would want to mitigate different components.

If the town secures the grant, it will nonetheless should discover a technique to pay for about 30% of the capital prices.

“We’ve got to discover a new mechanism, which we are going to try and do.” Bauman mentioned.

Future routes of the Hop streetcar system. Map from Metropolis of Milwauke

Traditionally, the streetcar system was funded via a mix of property taxes and tax incremental financing, amongst different funding streams. Nevertheless, the recently-adopted state shared income regulation bars the town from utilizing any property or sale tax revenues for streetcar growth or operation.

An extension of The Hop to the lakefront is already funded and is ready to start out service this fall. The subsequent extensions, to Fiserv Discussion board and to Brady Avenue, have already been studied and engineered, however are awaiting funding.

The decision that handed Monday additionally asks DPW to start “mission improvement,” which incorporates engineering and different research, for long-term extensions to North Avenue in Bronzeville through Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and to Nationwide Avenue in Walker’s Level.

In the meantime, ridership of the streetcar’s current 2.1-mile loop has not returned to pre-pandemic ranges. Peaking in summer season of 2019 with over 100,000 rides in July 2019, ridership fell to lower than 20,000 rides monthly for many of the pandemic.

Whereas trending upward, ridership was solely about 42,000 this Might in comparison with about 63,000 in Might 2019, ridership knowledge exhibits.