Milwaukee streetcar

The Milwaukee Streetcar is a new streetcar line proposed in downtown Milwaukee and the nearby neighbourhoods in Wisconsin, US. The 2.5-mile (4km) streetcar system is estimated to cost $128.1m.

The project will be constructed in phases with the first phase expected to generate approximately 1,850 rides a day and more than 595,000 rides a year. It will connect 80,000 downtown workers, 25,000 downtown residents and millions of visitors, while establishing a fixed-rail transit operating in the city.

"The project will be constructed in phases with the first phase expected to generate approximately 1,850 rides a day and more than 595,000 rides a year."

Approval for the project was obtained on 10 February 2015 from the City of Milwaukee Common Council. Construction is scheduled to start in 2016, with the streetcar beginning its passenger service in mid-2018.

Milwaukee Streetcar route details

The route of the proposed project has been planned to integrate with the major bus routes and corridors, as well as serve as a ‘last mile’ connection for travellers using Milwaukee intermodal station.

Phase one of the project will traverse a route connecting the intermodal station to the employment and housing areas located in downtown area. It will cover east and west locations between Broadway and Jackson on Kilbourn Avenue connecting the Milwaukee Intermodal Station, Historic Third Ward, Central Business District and the Lower East Side neighbourhood.

Phase two of the project will comprise the Lakefront line and will connect Cathedral Square to the Lakefront through Broadway, Michigan St. and Clybourn St. It will also link the mainline to a planned $122m lakefront development, The Couture, which will include a streetcar stop.

Additional route extensions have been planned for the future, including connections to Bronzeville, Walker’s Point, Marquette University, the west side of downtown and additional residential and commercial areas on East Side.

Details of the streetcar stops and track

The streetcar route is initially designed to have 22 stops with another 18 new stops planned to be added as part of the route extensions. The stops will be located at a distance of one to three blocks. An important stop will be located along the Prospect Avenue between Brady Street and Royall Place that will accommodate more than one streetcar vehicle and will be designed with wider shelters to hold more people.

The tracks will be constructed along the general traffic lanes and will be set within the existing right of way. To minimise the impact on the appearance of the streets, the rails will be embedded in the roadway and will be approximately 6in-deep and 4ft, 8.5in-wide. In case of multiple lanes, the tracks will be located in the right-most lane.

Milwaukee Streetcar rolling stock

The project will initially feature four low-floor streetcar vehicles that will be between 65ft and 85ft in length and 8.8in-wide. The vehicles will run at speeds ranging from 25mph to 30mph, and be able to accommodate between 150 and 200 passengers.

The streetcars will have two doors on each side and a total of 32 seats with 14 seats on each side, in addition to four flip-down seats in the centre. Its low-floor will make boarding easier for wheelchairs, strollers and bikes.

The streetcar will be electrically-powered by four 99kW AC traction motors and will operate in standard 56.5in track gauge. It will draw electricity from an overhead contact system through a wire with supporting poles and substations located along the route.

Funding for the Milwaukee Streetcar

The estimated construction cost of the two phases of the project is $98.9m and $29.2m, respectively.

The US Congress granted $54.9m for the construction of the project, while a grant of $14.2m was received from the US Department of Transport (USDOT) for the Lakefront line. During the first 18 months of its operations, approximately 65% of the costs will be met through a federal congestion mitigation and air quality grant that has a possible extension of another 18 months.

The project will be further funded through fares, sponsorships, advertising, federal grants and revenues from city-owned parking meters and lots. The operation costs during the first three years will be partly covered by the introductory fare of $1 a ride, and sponsorships and advertisings.

Key players involved

A $18.6m contract was awarded to Brookville Equipment Corporation to build and supply four streetcars. The company’s Pennsylvania plant will manufacture the vehicles with the first vehicle planned to be delivered within 24 months.

TERRA was contracted to provide traffic analysis, survey, hollow walk investigations, and traffic maintenance to support the design of the streetcar.

An agreement was executed with We Energies to conduct a detailed review of the impacted facilities and present a final design of the proposed solutions. Milwaukee Composites will manufacture the floors of the streetcar.

A team comprising HNTB and HDR was contracted to provide final design services for the streetcar. Maintenance Design Group was subcontracted by HNTB to provide operational, functional and industrial equipment design for the operations and maintenance facility.