Thursday, September 19, 2013

Kenosha commission OKs streetcar expansion

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A plan to expand Kenosha, Wis.'s current PCC streetcar operation got the go-ahead Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2013, after the Transit Commission approved plans to add a north-south route, also approving design and engineering work.

Under the proposal, federal funds would cover 80% of the $10.3 million total capital cost, with Kenosha paying the remaining $2 million. The City Council last November approved funding in Kenosha's 2013 budget for the streetcar expansion.

Kenosha's existing 1.7-mile streetcar east-west route, patrolled by vintage Presidents' Conference Committee (PCC) streetcars, links the city's Metra passenger station with the city marina and two parks along Lake Michigan. The addition is being advanced as an economic development tool, a city transit circulator, and an additional tourist draw.

Local media reported that Paul McDonough, president of the Downtown Business Improvement District and owner of a number of buildings along the proposed route, cited numerous studies that showed municipalities with streetcar lines getting significant returns on their investments.

Opponents – many of them actively vocal on local blog posts Thursday – say the project is a boondoggle, citing poor road conditions and out-of-control drug use in the city's downtown as reasons to question the project.