The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

Aldermen denounce downtown streetcar network plans

The streetcar system which would provide transportation throughout the city is being challenged by several aldermen. Photo courtesy of

On July 26, the Milwaukee Common Council approved a $65 million downtown streetcar network. Last week, some officials who oppose the plan began to publicly push for a referendum to stop the funding and relocate it to the Milwaukee County Transit System.

Bob Donovan, 8th district alderman, along with 11th district Alderman Joe Dudzik and Milwaukee County Supervisor Mark Borkowski, held a news conference Oct. 5 denouncing the streetcar plans and calling instead for the money to go toward the Milwaukee bus system.

“We have a bus system that not only serves a wide range of people — including low-income and working-class people,” Dudzik said in a joint press release. “But it pretty much serves our entire city and county, not just a 2.1-mile downtown loop like the streetcar.”

Donovan said in the release that he would like to “let the people decide” with a spring referendum. The three are now circulating a petition to gather support in opposition to the streetcars.

The project, which was approved by the Common Council 10-5 over the summer and supported by Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, was hotly debated and discussed long before this point, 4th district Alderman Robert Bauman said.

“Frankly, this recent stirring of concerns is old news,” Bauman said.

He said there was a call for a referendum during the Common Council’s debate, but that it was shot down 12-3. He also said no new facts or developments warrant a fresh look at these same issues discussed in June and July.

The construction is projected to begin in 2013 and be completed sometime in 2014, Bauman said.

The debate over a new mass transit system for Milwaukee has been ongoing since 1991, when the federal government allocated $54.9 million to go toward the city’s mass transit system. In 2009 Congress stated the money would go toward a downtown streetcar project, and an additional $36.6 million would be allocated for Milwaukee county buses.

The city of Milwaukee is giving $9.7 million for the streetcar project, which Barrett said he is confident the community wants in a July news conference.

“It’s a step forward for economic development,” he said in July. “It’s going to improve mass transit and put people in work. Now is the time to push our sleeves and get to work on it.”

5th District Alderman Jim Bohl voted against the streetcar plans in July and said he is sticking with his disapproval of the idea, though he did say whether or not he supported a referendum.

“There were some obvious problems at the time (of the vote),” Bohl said. “Including that only 30 percent of the preliminary engineering had been done.”

He said he is concerned with unforeseen costs of construction running up the bill and the taxpayers bearing the burden. He likened the situation to signing a contract with a car company a year in advance to buy a new electric car but the company not telling you how much it would cost.

Bauman emphasized instead the potential for future growth the streetcars would bring to downtown Milwaukee, just east of Marquette’s campus, including a boost to real estate, local goods and services and restaurants.

With regards to the attempted referendum, Bauman said it was not necessary.

“Frankly, it’s demagoguery,” he said. “If for no other reason than that it was debated and defeated soundly.”

Leave a Comment

Comments (0)

All Marquette Wire Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *