"To build on momentum:" Mayor Barrett sounds off on proposed increased funding for streetcar project

MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- This week, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett announced he wants to increase funding for the proposed downtown streetcar project to $113.9 million -- from the initial cost of $65 million. The project has been controversial since it was proposed, so what does a potential increase to the project's budget mean for the project's future?

"It will allow us to extend the original proposed line to the lakefront -- which is very, very attractive for Summerfest, for Discovery World, for the Calatrava and really just to build on the momentum that we`ve got going in downtown Milwaukee right now," Mayor Barrett said.

Mayor Barrett says he'd like to add 4.6 miles of track to the streetcar project, and add a stretch along the lakefront.

"$55 (million) of that ($113.9 million) comes from the federal government. We`re looking for another $10 million from the federal government, so over half of the dollars would come from the federal government," Mayor Barrett said.

The rest of the money would come from property tax increases generated by businesses and properties along the proposed line.

"That means that the dollars that are generated, the property tax dollars that are generated would be dedicated for a set period of time to pay this off. Then the dollars would go to the general coffers just as they do in every other tax incremental financing district," Mayor Barrett said.

One of the TIF districts would include East Erie Street, and another would include East Michigan Street.

The additional dollars could also be used to potentially cover relocating underground utilities for the streetcar. That matter is now in court, after the city of Milwaukee this week filed suit against the state's Public Service Commission after the group ruled the city must pay to move the lines at a cost of $25 million. If the city of Milwaukee wins in court, the overall cost of the project could drop.

"There`s money within the proposed spending from the Mayor`s Office that would cover that in the case that the city loses its lawsuit -- and either way, they can proceed with the project while the lawsuit is ongoing. If the lawsuit is successful, the city would either recoup the money or would never have to spend it," Sean Ryan with the Milwaukee Business Journal said.

Milwaukee Alderman Bob Donovan has been an outspoken critic of the project since it was proposed. He says the downtown streetcar is something Milwaukee doesn't need.

"I continually hear from people 'by God Bob, let`s pave the roads before we start building tracks and streetcars downtown that really services a small minute portion of the community,'" Alderman Donovan said.

Mayor Barrett's plan must go through the Redevelopment Authority and the Common Council. The Common Council is planning to discuss the project on December 16th.

READ IT: Alderman Donovan sends letter to Rep. Dale Kooyenga on proposed TIF districts for streetcar project.

READ IT: Alderman Nik Kovac statement in support of proposed streetcar project.

CLICK HERE to learn more about the proposed streetcar project.

Related stories: