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Milwaukee Alderman Asks State to Scuttle Downtown Streetcar Plan

Ald. Robert Donovan wants state leaders to prohibit Milwaukee from using Tax Incremental Financing districts to pay for a streetcar line.

Mayor Tom Barrett is suggesting the city create three TIFs to help cover the cost of the project which has increased, because the city may have to pay the entire cost of relocating utility lines.

The Public Service Commission has ruled that while utilities must cover the cost of moving power lines for most public works projects, a streetcar line does not qualify. The city is appealing the PSC decision.

The estimated cost of the proposed 4.6 mile streetcar line is estimated at upwards of $120 million. The route would link the east side, downtown Milwaukee including lakefront stops, and the Third Ward.

Donovan, who has announced he is running for mayor in 2016, calls Barrett's streetcar plan "ill-considered" and an "albatross," in a letter the alderman sent to Assemblyman Dale Kooyenga on Wednesday.

The letter asks Kooyenga to "take whatever steps you deem appropriate to forbid the use of Tax Incremental Financing for this (the streetcar) purpose."

Another Milwaukee alderman also released a statement Wednesday, on the proposed streetcar project, supporting it. Ald. Nik Kovac calls Milwaukee a big league city that comes up short in one major category.

"Take a look at the list of cities with fixed rail as the spine of their transit system, and we are the only major league city without it, " Kovac writes.

Under the mayor's plan, the city would apply nearly $55 million in federal money toward the project.