The Milwaukee Business Journal is reporting that The Hop, the city of Milwaukee’s streetcar system, did not win a $20 million federal grant for a planned expansion to the new Milwaukee Bucks arena Fiserv Forum. The loss of the possible grant puts in jeopardy the possibility of having the streetcar line in place for a possible Democratic National Convention in downtown Milwaukee in 2020.
“City officials had studied ways to have the arena line built and running in time for the Democratic National Convention in summer 2020, if it comes to Milwaukee,” Sean Ryan reported for the Business Journal. “The extension would run mostly on Vel R. Phillips Avenue between St. Paul Avenue and the arena on Juneau Avenue.”
The proposed expansion would cost $40 million. The city of Milwaukee planned to cover half the cost with a Tax Incremental Finance (TIF) district. However, the Business Journal reported the arena extension cannot be built without the remaining $20 million from the federal government, “so its future timeline is in question.”
According to the city’s website promoting the streetcar, the $40 million would have paid for “.75 route miles, 1.17 track miles, 3 stops and one additional streetcar vehicle.”
The city has much more ambitious expansion plans in mind. The website for The Hop streetcar describes the current tracks as “a starter system.”
“These first segments are considered a starter system and have been planned as a backbone for a larger system with future expansion to other areas of the City,” according to the website. “The 2.5-mile M-Line and L-Line are hopefully just a start. With additional funding, more segments will be built to bring the streetcar to other neighborhoods and create a fixed-rail transit system that operates around the city. It’s not uncommon for streetcar systems in the U.S. to initially build starter routes and then expand.”
The next segment for expansion is the L-line, currently scheduled to open in 2020 with the construction of The Couture building on Milwaukee’s lakefront. That development project was on hold until recently when it received a federal grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). It’s unknown how many impoverished residents the high-end luxury apartment building will house with the HUD grant.