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Thursday, October 6, 2011

Milwaukee streetcar debate heats up

From an article by Sean Ryan in the Business Journal:

City of Milwaukee streetcar supporters, including Mayor Tom Barrett, on Wednesday rallied against the proposal to give Milwaukee County buses up to $54.9 million in federal grants dedicated to the streetcar.

Milwaukee Alds. Joe Dudzik and Bob Donovan and County Board Supervisor Mark Borkowski on Wednesday called for an April referendum on the project and requested U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore sponsor federal legislation to give county buses the federal money that was earmarked for the streetcar. Donovan listed his concerns about the project, including the potentially high cost of moving utilities for the streetcar tracks, operating costs and potential ridership.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said Donovan, Dudzik and Borkowski have a history of being hostile toward transit and said many of their arguments have been made before. He said the three did not participate in a push made earlier this year to urge the state to restore money for the county transit system that was cut in the state budget.

“Where were these three individuals?” Barrett said. “They were nowhere, because they’ve never had an interest in improving transit in this community.”

The federal grant for the 2.1-mile downtown streetcar is the city’s share of $91.5 million in transit money Congress approved in 1991 for projects in Milwaukee County. A Congressional budget bill approved in 2009 earmarked $54.9 million for the city and $36.6 million for the county. As approved by Congress, the money can only be spent on capital projects, not on system operations.

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