Congress backs streetcar system for Milwaukee

(Via Ending a 17-year-long dispute, Congress has thrown its support behind a modern streetcar system in downtown Milwaukee.

With local officials deadlocked over how to spend $91.5 million in long-idle federal transit aid, Sen. Herb Kohl and Rep. David Obey quietly inserted a provision in the massive federal budget bill to hand 60% of the money to the city for a downtown rail line and 40% to Milwaukee County for buses. President Barack Obama signed the budget into law last week.

That’s a victory for Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, who has championed a downtown streetcar loop, and a defeat for County Executive Scott Walker, who has fought the idea. Kohl and Obey, both Wisconsin Democrats, acted at the urging of Barrett, their former congressional colleague.

Modern streetcars resemble light rail vehicles but are smaller and less expensive.

The $91.5 million is all that remains of $289 million appropriated in late 1991 for public transit in the Milwaukee area. Over the years, officials have debated and rejected plans for a bus-only highway, a full-scale light rail system, a guided electric bus system and reserved bus and car-pool lanes on I-94. Meanwhile, the federal government took away $48 million, and state and local officials agreed to spend $149.5 million on other projects. »Read Full Article


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