Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Milwaukee OKs downtown streetcar plan

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The city of Milwaukee’s Common Council, in a 10-5 vote Tuesday, approved a long-sought plan to establish a streetcar circulator for the city’s downtown.

By an identical vote, a proposal to use the Cathedral Place tax incremental financing district to fund the city's portion of the project also was passed. The city hopes to contribute $9.7 million to construction, estimated to cost $64.6 million.

Federal funding is expected to cover much of the remainder, with streetcar supporters noting federal grant money has been available for years, its use stymied by opposition to rail projects by Milwaukee County officials and, at times, by Wisconsin state officials as well.

The streetcar, 2.1 miles in length, would link Milwaukee Intermodal Station (served by Amtrak and both local and intercity buses) with downtown and the city's lower east side. Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and Alderman. Robert Bauman, whose district includes the proposed route, are among those staunchly supporting the project; Barrett's support echoed that of former Milwaukee Mayor John O. Norquist .