Republican Plan to Kill Streetcar
The Journal Sentinel reports that Republicans in the state legislature were planning to give committee approval to a bill that would prevent utility customers from bearing costs of utility relocations for the planned streetcar project. If enacted, this law would mean the city would have to bear the multimillion dollar cost to move utilities, possibly killing the project.
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker supports the measure saying the city should spend money on economic development projects.
There is some uncertainty about the amount of utility relocation needed by the project. The utility companies have estimated the cost at $55 million. However, Mayor Tom Barrett's chief of staff Patrick Curley said the figure is far too high and that city engineers think no utility lines will need to be relocated.
The city's plan for the line totals $64.6 million, $54.9 million in federal transportation funds and $9.7 million from a tax incremental financing district, to construct the first two-mile stretch of the modern streetcar line from the lower east side to the Milwaukee Intermodal Station. The city plans for a construction start in 2014 and service inauguration in 2016.
Utility Costs Going Down
As reported by the bizjournals.com site, the controversial utility relcoation costs for the planend streetcar appear to be minimal. The state budget proposal with the prohibition against charging utiity customers for the relocation costs is still under consideration. However, in the meantime, city officials are optimistic. Final costs will not be clear until city engineers reach the 60 percent stage of the design by late summer.
We Energies initially estimated the cost to relocate buried steam lines and other facilities at $45 million, however changes to the project, including relocating track away from underground utilities, have reduced impacts significantly.