Can you believe it?
Yesterday governor Doyle announces the latest development in the Milwaukee to Madison “A few miles faster than the flow of car traffic-rail” plan— he boasts that the route will change and the price tag will increase. No, that’s not unbelievable. As Cato’s Randall O’Toole has told us these projects always run over budget. What’s unbelievable is that Doyle’s announcement about the Milwaukee to Madison project was not the craziest mass transit boondoggle development of the day.
In Milwaukee, an non-elected body comprised of local ‘leaders’ approved spending funds taxpayers can’t afford to start preliminary work on a streetcar line in downtown Milwaukee that taxpayers do not need.
The Milwaukee Connector Study Steering Committee is moving ahead with a plan to tear up several busy streets Downtown and on the East Side, install fixed rails, and run street cars (yes, street cars) on a few miles of city roads.
The ‘extended’ route they are discussing would be less than 6 miles. Extended?
No one knows the ultimate price tag, but it likely will be in the neighborhood of $100 million. Only the government would proceed with purchasing something without knowing the actual cost or how they were going to pay for it. There’s a federal grant that will cover $54 million of it (by the way, that’s taxpayer dollars, too), and the City has their hands out for more federal money, but the local match for this idea will be at least $9.7 million for start up costs along with $2.5 million to run the routes each year.
For this $100 million or so, proponents’ optimistic projections show less than 2,000 people a day would take a round trip on the street cars.
The streetcar line would connect downtown Milwaukee with the southern end of the East Side neighborhood. Stops are planned for the Third Ward, the Amtrak-Greyhound Intermodal (that’s a fancy word for bus AND train) Station, the Bradley Center, the Frontier Airlines Center, and Brady Street.
That’s it. For $100 million only a tiny slice of the city would benefit.
Milwaukee’s public schools are failing generation after generation; major employers like Harley Davidson are struggling to keep their operations within Milwaukee; local homeowners are being hammered with new and increased fees for services previously covered by their hefty property tax bills, yet the City is going to spend more than $11 million in the first year and more than $2 million every year thereafter for a boutique street car line that will tie up automobile traffic, displace the already-limited parking in the city and most likely will not be operational when the five months we know as Winter subject the roads to the worst of its ice and snow.
Oh, for those of you who don’t live in the City of Milwaukee, I caution you to not just sit back and be amused at the nonsense we’re witnessing in the State’s largest municipality.
Do you think that in the not too distant future, Milwaukee County and the State of Wisconsin will be hit up to pay a part of the construction and maybe even the bulk of the ongoing annual costs of this little boondoggle?
By Brian Fraley
A MacIver Perspective