South side politicians want streetcar derailed
MILWAUKEE - Three south side elected leaders are calling for Congress to shift federal streetcar money to Milwaukee County Transit System buses.
"It is mind boggling to me that this community is on the verge of moving forward with this boondoggle," Ald. Bob Donovan said.
Ald. Joe Dudzik and Sup. Mark Borkowski joined Donovan for a press conference Wednesday at the Holt Avenue park and ride.
This is the latest push to derail a planned trolley line through the Third Ward, downtown and the east side.
"It's absolutely ridiculous," Borkowski said.
Dudzik, Borkowski and Donovan also want an April referendum that would put the streetcar question to voters. The Milwaukee Common Council previously rejected that idea.
Several residents and business owners holding signs reading 'Derail The Milwaukee Street-Car' stood behind the politicians. Among them was Bay View Service Garage owner Gerry Sneesby.
"It's a waste of money," Sneesby said. "The cost is going to exceed what they say."
Streetcar advocates called their own press conference at Mayor Tom Barrett's office.
"I want this city to prosper and that means I want people to be connected using 21st century transportation," Barrett said.
East side alderman Robert Bauman insists the federal streetcar money cannot be shifted to buses.
"The person who is in charge of the Federal Transit Administration indicated to us unequivocally that money cannot be shifted," Bauman told TODAY'S TMJ4 reporter Tom Murray.
Third Ward developer Ron San Felippo wants the streetcars.
"People like mass transit that's on a fixed rail," he said.
Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wisconsin) supports Milwaukee streetcars and moving forward with the project rather than allowing the funds to be lost. Moore said she could not move the federal funds from streetcars to buses even if she wanted to.
"The original funding was contained in an earmark. Under the rules of the House of Representatives earmarks are now prohibited," Moore said in an emailed statement. "Legislation to reprogram these funds to a specific entity would still be considered an earmark under these rules."
The current plan calls for the streetcar to be operational in 2014.