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Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

Mayor Barrett goes “On the Issues” to discuss streetcar plan

Mayor Barrett goes On the Issues to discuss streetcar plan

Mayor Tom Barrett discussed the Milwaukee streetcar plan with Mike Gousha Tuesday as part of the “On the Issues” series.

Barrett talked about the migration of young people into the urban setting and how the streetcar will help increase that migration to Milwaukee. He said the streetcar will help provide transportation so people can save money on traveling.

“A healthy downtown with a healthy tax base helps the city,” Barrett said. “I want to get this in the ground and expand it.”

Not only did Barrett say he thinks a streetcar system would help people connect to jobs, but he said he thinks construction on the project could create hundreds of jobs as well.

When talking about budget concerns related to a streetcar project, Barrett said there is $54.9 million that only can be used for streetcar funding. Another $10 million could be acquired through a TIGER application from the federal government. TIGER funds are awarded on a competitive basis for projects that will have a significant impact on the nation, a metropolitan area or a region.

Barrett spoke about the momentum Milwaukee has and how a streetcar project would help build on it. Part of the momentum the streetcar would bring is the investment of large businesses along the route.

“I want to attract and retain business talent,” Barrett said. “I’ve spoken to several businesses who would invest heavily if the streetcar were to be put in.”

The streetcar project received mixed reviews from Marquette students. 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a junior in the College of Arts & Sciences, wrote an opinion article in opposition to the proposed, calling it an outdated and expensive addition to the city.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.

Barrett said he thinks Milwaukee has enough density to support fixed transit. He talked about the streetcar project in Atlanta, Ga., and how city density has played a role in the project’s effectiveness.

“Milwaukee is the 14th densest city in the country,” Barrett said. “Every city above Milwaukee on this list has fixed transit and these are the cities I want to compete with. I don’t want to compete with the cities below us.”

If the streetcar is approved, Barrett said he plans to begin construction in 2015 and have it fully functional by late 2018. The proposed route is approximately 2.1 – 2.4 miles, but Barrett said he hopes it will eventually expand to Lake Michigan, including the Summerfest Grounds.

“We must have a healthy downtown,” Barrett said. “Because I’m betting on the future of this city.”

Barrett previously served in the Wisconsin Legislature and as a U.S. congressman for 10 years prior to his work as Milwaukee mayor.

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