Committee approves special taxing district for streetcar project

 People on both sides of Milwaukee's streetcar debate had their chance to speak during a city council zoning committee meeting. This meeting gave residents a chance to weigh in before the project heads to the full common council.

The proposed streetcar project would provide three and a half miles of public transit in the downtown area, something the mayor argues is missing from downtown Milwaukee. City leaders say the $124 million project would connect downtown dwellers and tourists to hotels and major office buildings. The mayor says the youth want it, but admits utilities added $26 million to the cost of the project. \"The state changed the laws with how it relates to utilities. We are fighting it in court, right now there are costs that weren't there,\" said Mayor Barrett.

Two special taxing districts to help pay for the downtown streetcar and the proposed Couture development along the lakefront have been approved by the zoning committee. Mayor Barrett says the city could break ground on the project next year, and have it done sometime in 2018.

Milwaukee Alderman Bob Donovan has been the voice of opposition to this project from inside the city. He wants the public to weigh in on this project with the use of a referendum vote. The alderman says state lawmakers told him this streetcar project would jeopardize the possibility of state funds being allocated to a new Bucks arena. Milwaukee Alderman Bob Bauman represents the downtown area and says Alderman Donovan is just stirring the pot and the arena wouldn't be impacted. 

Alderman Bauman admits the public could be forced to fund the streetcar, but that wouldn't happen until the 2021 budget. The first two miles of this project are completely funded. There is still a $10 million gap Mayor Barrett hopes to make up with grants.

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