Tuesday, January 31, 2012

FTA nudges Milwaukee streetcar project forward

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The Federal Transit Administration Monday gave the city of Milwaukee environmental approval for an initial streetcar line. City Engineer Jeff Polenske said FTA had issued a “finding of no significant impact” (FONSI) for the proposed route.

The move clears the way for Milwaukee to begin final design this summer, with construction targeted to commence in the spring of 2014. Revenue service would begin in December 2015.

Phase 1 would link Milwaukee’s intermodal station (served by Amrak and Greyhound, as well as local buses) to the city’s lower east. Financing would come from $54.9 million in federal transit aid and $9.7 million in tax incremental financing. The city of Milwaukee has fought for years with its namesake county, which has opposed any passenger rail development in the city itself.

Mimicking U.S. streetcar developments elsewhere, utilities are warning of hefty costs in moving infrastructure to accommodate street running. City officials vow to minimize the cost while, aided by streetcar advocates, they also dispute whether the city should cover all costs of such relocation.