Who Will Pay for Milwaukee Train’s Utility Costs? Brett Healy Seeks Declaratory Ruling from PSC

MacIver Institute President Seeks Declaratory Ruling From PSC on Milwaukee Trolley Utility Costs

The president of the MacIver Institute wants a definitive answer regarding who will be on the hook for paying for infrastructure costs associated with construction of a proposed a 2-mile boutique trolley route.

Brett Healy

Brett Healy, President of the Wisconsin-based John K. MacIver Institute for Public Policy, announced that he will file a petition with the Public Service Commission requesting a declaratory judgment that the City of Milwaukee will be responsible for paying for the costs associated with moving utility facilities underneath the proposed Milwaukee Streetcar route.


“This two-mile train line at best benefits a minuscule segment of Milwaukee residents, business owners and tourists. I believe the costs should be borne by them and not those who will receive no benefit. Nevertheless, the taxpayers and ratepayers of Wisconsin deserve to know how much this will cost and who will have to pay for this project before any more expenses are incurred. I am seeking a declaratory judgment so that all involved will know, without a shadow of a doubt, who is going to pay for this trolley. While the PSC has issued an initial analysis that the City of Milwaukee could be responsible for these costs, taxpayers and ratepayers in Wisconsin deserve a definitive answer.”


General construction of the $64.6 million, 2.1-mile rail line would be funded by $55 million in federal transit aid (previously allocated twenty years ago) and $9.7 million in tax-incremental financing district funds. Supporters assert that rider fares, downtown parking fees and advertising revenue will cover the $2.65 million annual operating cost.  The Milwaukee Common Council has approved the project although they have withheld the release of funding for the project pending additional information.

In their response to queries made by State Senators Van Wanggaard and Leah Vukmir, the PSC confirmed that additional, utility-related, costs associated with the project could exceed $70 million.

The PSC broke down the costs:

  • WEPCO  – $45 million
  • ATC .5 to 15.4 million
  • AT&T 10 million

The PSC said the ATC costs will vary depending on the need for corrosion protection for the steel conduit holding the underground transmission lines because of the proximity to DC (direct current) lines powering the proposed streetcars. The Commission further notes that the AT&T estimate is not for costs that would be incurred by other co-located telecommunication providers.

As the letter to Wanggaard and Vukmir states “Wiscosnin Stat. 227.41 allows the Commission to issue a declaratory ruling if a petition is filed by an interested person regarding whether a utility would be obligated to pay for moving its facilities associated with the Streetcar Project. Here, an affected utility or a ratepayer would request a declaratory ruling.”

Healy will be filing a petition to the PSC requesting such a ruling as an individual utility ratepayer in Southeast Wisconsin, not on behalf of or in his role as President of the MacIver Institute.