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Proposed streetcar receives mixed reviews

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Proposed streetcar receives mixed reviews

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The proposed Milwaukee streetcar system has brought support from groups in the Marquette area, although a few businesses and Marquette students are opposed to the development.

If approved, the $123.9 million streetcar proposal would begin later this year. The final vote to approve the streetcar project was postponed by the Common Council. Mayor Tom Barrett will discuss the streetcar in Eckstein Hall Jan. 20 as part of the Law School’s “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” series.

Barrett said he hopes a streetcar system will bring young people to the city and connect Marquette with the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Barrett spoke about the streetcar system at a Marquette Student Government meeting in November, saying it could help bring a younger audience and grow the population of Milwaukee.

If the proposed plan were approved, the streetcar system could branch off and connect the Marquette campus with UWM.

Rana Altenburg, vice president for public affairs, said Marquette would not be included in the initial phase of the proposed streetcar project.

“If built, the initial phase would focus on connecting downtown, the Third Ward, the lower east side, and the lakefront,” Altenburg said in an email. “Future expansions could include campus.”

Daniel Bernard, a junior in the College of Arts & Sciences, said he supports the streetcar proposition, and that implementing the cars is common sense and could benefit both campuses if extensions were put in place.

Barrett said during his November presentation that additional expansions were in his plan.

“I want to get it in the ground, and then I want to expand it, because I think for younger people, this is an attractive form of transportation,” Barrett said at the November meeting.

Altenburg said several area business organizations supported the project, including the Westown Association and Menomonee Valley Partners, of which Marquette is a member.

While some organizations support the project, others do not. Sobelman’s, a campus burger restaurant, recently tweeted in opposition of the streetcar system, asking residents to sign a petition to oppose it.

Bernard said Barrett had the right idea and supported his rationale to bring younger professionals to the city.

“When there is an area or space that has access to public transportation, it makes the land more profitable,” Bernard said.

Matthew Walker, a junior in the College of Arts & Sciences, wrote an opinion article in opposition to the proposed, calling it an outdated and expensive addition to the city.

“(The streetcar) is certainly not an essential additional financial burden to a financially strapped city,” Walker said in his article.

Bernard said the debate should not be turned into a political issue and that the money to fund the streetcars would not be better used elsewhere or else it already would’ve been spent.

“Republicans say we should be funding education, but they are the ones who slashed the budget last term,” Bernard said. “We need to turn away from the idea that spending money is wasting money.”

Amanda Frazier, a freshman in the College of Education, said she questions why the streetcars are needed when Milwaukee still has buses. She also doubted the efficiency of transportation downtown, saying it would add congestion.

“I have questions on how they would affect the buses, would we have less of them?” Frazier said.

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