Friday, July 15, 2011

Milwaukee doggedly pursues streetcar plan

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Despite continuous opposition to rail transit of any kind from Milwaukee County and many state officials, the Milwaukee City Council's steering committee July 14 approved a proposed $64.6 million streetcar route to serve the city’s downtown.

And cost concerns are troubling even those nominally in support of the plan, including City Comptroller W. Martin Morics, who said authorizing $9.7 million in city funds at this stage in the project is "premature."

Morics asked city aldermen to approve the project in principle, but only to authorize immediate spending for further engineering design work and development of the system's financial plan. Despite that warning, the Steering and Rules Committee on Thursday approved the streetcar proposal, with partial financing from the city’s Cathedral Place tax incremental financing district to fund the city's contribution to the project. Milwaukee would seek federal funds to cover part of the capital cost.

The Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce also has expressed concern over extra utility costs, saying any overrun might need to be covered by additional city funding or higher taxes. Potential conflicts on Broadway involving steam, power, and telecommunications infrastructure are cited as reason for such concern.