Saturday, December 10th, 2016

A Streetcar Named Disaster

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Americans for Prosperity – Wisconsin has launched a new website, “A Streetcar Named Disaster.” The website and the reasons behind it are the subject of this week’s column for the MacIver Institute. From the column:

The organization has set up a website, “A Streetcar Named Disaster,” where the public can sign a petition asking that the costly streetcar be put before the public in a referendum.

The streetcar would run from the southern end of Farwell Avenue on Milwaukee’s East Side to the Intermodal Station on St Paul Avenue. However, this streetcar system is just the starter kit. Planners already have a second phase on the drawing table to extend the streetcar further up the East Side along Farwell Avenue and to the old Pabst Brewery location. From there, fantasies run wild with thoughts of extending the streetcar system to UW-Milwaukee’s campus, General Mitchell International Airport, Miller Park, into the Riverwest neighborhood, the Bronzeville area, even along Fond Du Lac Avenue.

It’s like kids building a toy wooden train set that just keeps going and going, only the streetcar system is a lot more expensive. Just building the initial phase of the proposed streetcar system will cost $64.6 million, including $9.7 million in city taxpayer money via a Tax Incremental Finance (TIF) district. The rest comes from federal transportation funding. However, that does not include the cost of relocating public utility infrastructure, another $58.3 million, nearly doubling the cost of the streetcar project.

The city of Milwaukee believes that the cost of moving the utility’s infrastructure should be borne by the ratepayers, meaning WE Energies’ customers would foot the bill for a significant portion of the streetcar’s costs even if they do not live in the city of Milwaukee. And this is why the fate of this project is important to those who live outside the city of Milwaukee – the Mayor wants ratepayers to pay the biggest share of this project even though they have no direct say in the matter.

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