Milwaukee Responsible For Running Its Own Trolley, says JFC

MacIver News Service | July 6, 2015

[Madison, Wisc…] Mayor Tom Barrett made his bed when it comes to his forthcoming streetcar line, and on Thursday the Wisconsin Joint Committee on Finance took steps to make sure he lies in it too.

The Streetcar line is expected to cost $2.65 million a year to operate. Recently Milwaukee City Hall has expressed a desire to make the Milwaukee County Transit System responsible for running the line. Even though Mayor Barrett has indicated the city would still pay for it, a former Milwaukee County Supervisor isn’t buying it.

Now a member of the Assembly, Representative Joe Sanfelippo (R-New Berlin) submitted a budget motion request that prevents the City of Milwaukee from passing on any operating costs to the county.

“I’ve heard from my constituents in Milwaukee County and they don’t want to pay for a trolley outside of their area that’s going to travel in a circle in downtown Milwaukee,” Sanfelippo said.

They’ve got good cause to be concerned. When the city learned it would cost $20 million to move utility lines to accommodate the streetcar’s route, it tried to make WE Energies absorb that cost (which would have been passed on to ratepayers throughout the region). The Wisconsin Public Service Commission told Milwaukee it could not do that. In response, the City of Milwaukee filed a lawsuit against the PSC in November.

Sanfelippo wants to ensure the City does not try a similar maneuver with the annual operating costs too.

“If the city is going to build this questionable streetcar line that’s in an area already served by public buses, taxpayers in the suburbs of Milwaukee County should not be left holding the tab,” Sanfelippo said. “City leaders seem to think the streetcar will be a tremendous boon to Milwaukee, so I don’t see why they would have any problem sticking to their plan of bearing all the costs.”

His efforts were successful. The Joint Committee on Finance included Sanfelippo’s request in its transportation omnibus motion. It passed that motion on Thursday, July 2nd.