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Opinions clash at Milwaukee streetcar meeting for future routes

Construction is underway, but talk about Milwaukee's streetcar is far from over.

In fact, one alderman says taxpayers aren't getting the whole story.

On Wednesday, the city asked neighbors what they would want to see if tracks expand to Walker's Point, and they did so with a laid-back, open-house-style public meeting.

"Today's open house is just that, an open house. We're not putting them in a high school auditorium and sitting them through an hour presentation. We want people to understand why we're doing this project," said Sam Leichtling, City of Milwaukee Long-Range Planning Manager.

"We might ask them to look at a map of their neighborhood and point out areas where they would want to see improved intersections, or places where they currently don't feel safe walking," said Leichtling.

"I put yellow dots where I live and work," said Nicole Hertel Meirose.

The Walker's Point resident hopes the streetcar will be a good neighbor.

"We have really great, buffered bike lanes on most of 2nd Street, and I'm worried putting the streetcar line on that street could jeopardize the great bikability," said Hertel Meirose.

"We are starting to think about to potential future expansions and wanting to make sure we're hearing them, hearing their concerns, hearing their goals," said Leichtling.

The city has also promised that taxpayers won't have to shell out any money for the operation of the streetcar, but Alderman Tony Zielinski believes any expansion may be funded by the people of Milwaukee.

"It's highly unlikely we're going to get money from the federal government to expand the streetcar. Where are we going to get money to build the thing, and where are we going to get the money to operate it?" said Alderman Zielinski.

Zielinski says the city needs to spell out the costs or call it off.

"The public has to be made aware of what's going on. The mayor has to come clean with the people in this community and he has to commit to no further expansion of the street car," said Alderman Zielinski.

Local realtor, Johvon Holmes says he wouldn't mind if he had to pay taxes for the streetcar.

"I think it's all about finding a value in the money you're spending. If the people can actually see he improvement that's going on, I think they're more inclined to be okay with it," said Holmes.

"They may cringe at first, but when you see the big picture, and everything coming to frutition, I think everybody will be okay," said Holmes.

He did write down a few concerns before giving his full support.

"I'm hoping to see it's something that can keep the market stable, to help out the community," said Holmes.

A second meeting to talk about expansion into the King Drive neighborhood will take place on Thursday, September 28th. It will be at Schlitz Park from 4-6 p.m. 

More information can be found at: http://www.movingmkeforward.com/#events

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