Tag Archives: transportation

UW-Madison researchers get federal OK to test driverless cars

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have received federal approval to start testing driverless cars at sites around Wisconsin.

The U.S. Department of Transportation recently designated UW-Madison’s Traffic Operations and Safety Laboratory as one of 10 groups nationwide as proving grounds for the vehicles, the Wisconsin State Journal reported.

The lab does not have any driverless cars of its own and has not yet partnered with a company that wants to test the technology in Wisconsin. But researchers say the federal designation boosts Wisconsin’s profile in research into the cars, known as autonomous vehicles.

“It really helps put our name out there,” said Peter Rafferty, a researcher in the transportation lab.

Rafferty said the lab is talking with companies about testing vehicles. If a partner is found, he said, “there’s no reason why we couldn’t be months away” from seeing driverless cars in Wisconsin.

The sites where companies and UW researchers can test autonomous vehicles range from closed courses to busy state highways, and are meant to match the different capabilities of driverless cars.

Proponents say driverless cars can make roads safer by cutting down on crashes caused by mistakes, inattention or drunken driving.

Vehicles with technology still in the early stages of development would start at the MGA Research Corp.’s large test facility near Burlington or the Road America race track near Elkhart Lake.

Researchers will use those closed facilities to ensure the cars are ready for use at the next level of testing sites: UW-Madison and the Epic Systems campus in Verona. The most advanced vehicles would be tested on Madison’s city streets and on state highways.

Driverless cars employ a mix of GPS, cameras and laser-sensing systems to detect other cars, road signs, traffic signals and pedestrians.

Rafferty said researchers will rigorously test the technology to make sure it’s ready to interact with the public, and cars will still have human attendants who can take over the controls if necessary.

“Safety really is an underlying, fundamental priority of all of this,” he said.

Milwaukee County Transit honors Rosa Parks with open seat

The Milwaukee County Transit System is keeping a seat open and the headlights shining on its entire fleet on Dec. 1  to honor the life of Rosa Parks and her contribution to equal rights.

Parks was arrested after refusing to give up her seat to a white man in Montgomery, Alabama, on Dec. 1, 1955.

Her act of civil disobedience led to a landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling that outlawed segregation on public transportation.

“This country was changed for the better that day Rosa Parks refused to give into racism and oppression,” County Executive Chris Abele stated in a release. “While we can never truly thank her for her bravery, we mark the occasion to remember and honor her courage.”

Every bus in the MCTS fleet has a seat reserved in honor of Rosa Parks. The signs feature a picture of Parks on the bus and one of her famous quotes: “My only concern was to get home after a hard day’s work.”

On the Web

Learn about Rosa Parks.

Medical providers try Uber, Lyft for patients with few transportation options

Edith Stowe, 83, waited patiently on a recent afternoon at the bus stop outside MedStar Washington Hospital Center in the District of Columbia. It’s become routine for her, but that doesn’t make it any easier.

Stowe, who lives about five miles from the hospital, comes into the medical center twice every three months to get checkups for chronic kidney failure. She doesn’t own a car and relies on buses. During rush hour, buses are more frequent, and she can keep the commute to about 30 minutes. But when she has to come in the middle of the day, it takes her at least an hour to get in and another hour to get home.

“It’s pretty good except for waiting during non-rush hours,” she said. “When that happens I don’t plan anything else for the day.”

For people without access to private transportation, getting to medical appointments can be a challenge, especially if they have chronic conditions that require frequent appointments.

Some hospitals and medical providers think that the hot-new technology in town — ride-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft — can address this problem by making the trips easier and, in some cases, it is even covered by Medicaid and other insurance plans.

Partnerships between ride-hailing companies and hospitals are emerging around the country. While the efforts are still small, some hospitals and medical transportation providers think the potential for growth is large.

MedStar Health, a nonprofit health care system with hospitals in Maryland and the district began a partnership with Uber in January that allows its patients who use Uber to access the ride service while on the hospital’s website and set up reminders for appointments. Medicaid patients who may not have access to the Uber app can also arrange the ride by calling the hospital’s patient advocates.

National MedTrans Network, a transportation system that provides non-emergency medical rides for patients and medical providers in a number of states, expanded its services through a partnership with Lyft last year in New York, California and Nevada.

Hackensack UMC, a hospital in New Jersey, the Sarasota Memorial Hospital in Florida, and Relatient, a health care communication company have also announced partnerships with Uber in the past year. Veyo, a San Diego startup, says it is offering a ride-hail-like technology for health care appointments in Idaho, Arizona, Texas, Colorado and California.

“We probably had 50 different systems across the country reach out to us and ask us ‘How did you do it?’” said Michael Ruiz, chief digital officer for MedStar. “I would say that it has been a seismic shift for the people who have used the service and the places we’ve provided it.”

Patients’ costs for the services vary. For Medicaid patients, transportation for non-emergency medical visits are covered, although the extent of reimbursement depends on state rules. Traditional Medicare does not cover non-emergency medical transportation, although some private Medicare Advantage plans may offer some benefits. 

Getting To Your Doctor

When going to a medical appointment becomes a hassle, patients are likely to miss the visit, and that can help lead to untreated symptoms or worsening health.

“Transportation can make it difficult for people to see health care providers on a regular basis,” said Ben Gerber, an associate professor of medicine at the University of Illinois at Chicago who has studied patient transportation issues. “It is important to see health care professionals regularly, especially for patients with diabetes or asthma.”

In a 2013 analysis of 25 studies, Gerber and colleagues found that 10 to 51 percent of patients reported that lack of transportation is a barrier to health care access. One of those studies showed that 82 percent of those who kept their appointments had access to cars, while 58 percent of those who did not keep appointments had that access. Another study reported bus users were twice as likely to skip on appointments compared to car users.

A bus arrives at the bus circle at MedStar Washington Hospital Center in the District of Columbia in July 2016. The hospital is served by many buses, vans and shuttles that come through the circle frequently. (Zhai Yun Tan/KHN)

A bus arrives at the bus circle at MedStar Washington Hospital Center in the District of Columbia in July 2016. Stowe gets to the medical center by bus, but when her appointments are in the middle of the day, it takes her at least an hour to get in and another hour to get home. (Zhai Yun Tan/KHN)

In addition to concerns about patients’ health, those absences can also be expensive for medical institutions, which lose revenue from the missed appointment.

Hospitals and managed care organizations do offer a variety of options to assist with transportation for non-emergency medical appointments. Health centers often work with volunteer drivers to pick up and drop off patients.

Patients can call them ahead of time to arrange a ride, but these services generally require advance planning, which becomes a problem when the patient needs to go in for an unscheduled appointment or if the patient forgets to book ahead.

Some patients also end up calling 911 for non-emergency situations, potentially diverting resources that could be used for others with more pressing needs.

Timely Services 

The National Medtrans Network partnership with Lyft began after an incident in February 2015. One of its clients, an elderly woman, was left waiting for a ride to a hospital in New York in freezing weather for 30 minutes. The contracted provider failed to show up.

“It was almost a dangerous situation,” said CEO Andrew Winakor. When his company was notified of the situation, officials immediately called a ride-hail service. The ride arrived within six minutes. Winakor said Medtrans officials realized they had to find a transportation option that could respond immediately to canceled rides.

But ride-hailing services do have some disadvantages. Wheel-chair friendly rides are still limited to a few cities. They also depend on the availability of drivers, which might be scarce in rural areas and low-income communities.

MedStar in Washington, dealt with the problem in one of its hospitals in rural Maryland, where there was a lack of Uber drivers, when a patient there had to travel to the flagship hospital in D.C. for an outpatient surgery at 6 a.m.

“Our social workers worked with the folks at Uber to be able to coordinate the ride to pick this patient up at 4:30 am, and coordinate the ride back,” Ruiz said.

Buses, vans and local public transportation for people in wheelchairs come and go frequently in MedStar Washington Hospital Center’s bus center. Stowe is satisfied with the transport options available. While she hasn’t used Uber before, she said it is something she wouldn’t mind trying especially when it gets cold outside.

“There are times when you come out and you really don’t feel that well. If Uber is here, it’d be really nice to have it,” said Stowe.

This story by Zhai Yun Tan was made available by Kaiser Health News, a national health policy news service that is part of the nonpartisan Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

Study: Transportation sector now top carbon polluter

The U.S. transportation sector has produced more carbon pollution than any other sector of the economy over the last 12 months, including the electric power, industrial, residential, and commercial sectors.

The results, released by the U.S. Energy and Information Administration, mark the first time that carbon emissions from the transportation sector have exceeded emissions from each of the other sectors since 1979.

“These recent findings are an important wake-up call that highlights the need for urgent action to combat global warming-causing pollution from transportation sources,” said John Olivieri, national campaign director for 21st Century Transportation at the United States Public Interest Research Group.

“This is the first time in nearly 40 years that this has happened,” he added.

The new data present both good and bad news.

Carbon pollution from the electric power sector has decreased some as policymakers have focused more on reducing emissions from that sector.

However, the data also show that little progress is being made in the transportation sector.

In fact, transportation sector emissions are increasing.

 

“It is increasingly clear that there is no path to combating climate change that doesn’t adequately address carbon pollution and other greenhouse gas emissions from transportation,” Olivieri said in a statement. “Over-reliance on single-occupant vehicle travel and a failure to prioritize non-driving modes of transportation like transit, biking and pedestrian alternatives is having a profound impact on the health of our planet and the health of our citizens.”

A study from researchers at NASA and Duke University found that 120,000 premature deaths could be prevented by 2030 with a reduction in carbon pollution from transportation.

Meanwhile, MIT has calculated that as many as 53,000 lives are lost prematurely each year as a result of overall pollution from transportation sources.

Federal policymakers are considering moving forward with key steps that could help combat the problem. The U.S. Department of Transportation is currently considering new rules that may require localities to track, measure and reduce carbon pollution from transportation sources.

Pursuant to the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21), U.S. DOT is required to issue a series of performance standards to provide greater accountability over our national transportation system and to ensure that local action is consistent with key national priorities.

The last of these rules, those governing air pollution and congestion, are open for public comment and U.S. DOT is expected to release the final version of the rule by the end of the year.

“U.S. DOT should be applauded for considering adding a carbon pollution performance standard to the current draft rule on air quality and congestion,” Olivieri said. “However, as the new data make clear, consideration alone is not enough. U.S. DOT must ensure that the final version of the congestion and air quality rule includes a requirement that localities track, measure, and reduce carbon pollution from transportation, as well as publicly report on their progress.”

Recent research also demonstrates that in addition to including a carbon performance standard in new federal regulations, there remain other steps that states can take to reduce carbon pollution from transportation.

A report from Frontier Group, “A New Way Forward: Envisioning a Transportation System without Carbon Pollution” showed there are a variety of tools available that could make a zero-carbon transportation system possible. Such tools include electrification of vehicles, increased use of shared-mobility services (car-sharing, bike-sharing, and ride-sharing), more and better public transportation, greater transit-oriented development, safe and walkable neighborhoods and smart pricing for roads and parking.

“While carbon pollution from transportation is a major problem, the good news is that the tools and technology we need to transition to a carbon-free transportation system already exist,” Olivieri said.  “What’s needed now is the political will at the federal, state, and local levels to take meaningful action.”

State ranks 47th in road quality, but Walker refuses to act

Making the necessary investments in Wisconsin roads and transportation infrastructure is a no-brainer for Wisconsin residents. Keeping our economy moving and making sure that goods can get to market is about as pro-business and pro-worker as one can get. Good leaders recognize that.

But these days, moving forward on common sense transportation solutions is like wading through wet cement. Wisconsin is bogged down by Gov. Scott Walker, an entrenched ideologue who equates doing nothing with being principled.

Wisconsin currently ranks 47th in road quality, and earlier this month Wisconsin Department of Transportation Secretary Mark Gottlieb gave up trying to fix that. Gottlieb waived the white flag, stating he would no longer seek any increase in transportation revenue in his next budget proposal because he knows the governor won’t budge.

Now the governor has doubled down, refusing to consider available options and explicitly prohibiting his transportation department from proposing any new sources of revenue. Acting like a stick-in-the-concrete is not leadership. As Wisconsin roads crumble, we need real leadership and we need to make tough decisions.

Nothing demonstrates a lack of leadership better than a lack of followers. Few Wisconsin legislators, including his fellow Republicans, agree with the governor’s political obstruction to maintain Wisconsin roads nor his fanatical opposition to reasonable policy. In fact, both Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke have openly opposed Walker’s stance on transportation funding, and both have called for new revenue.

Rather than working with the Legislature to ensure sustainable transportation funding, Walker insists that doing nothing — and being proud of it — is the only way forward.

This approach couldn’t be more wrong. Avoiding the responsibility to fund maintenance for Wisconsin roads costs motorists $6 billion a year. More importantly, refusing to fund the costs of infrastructure repair could end up costing Wisconsinites their lives: There are 1,970 bridges in Wisconsin that are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete.

When it comes to the dilapidated condition of Wisconsin roads, we know what the problem is and how to fix it. We need leadership. Refusing to properly fund our infrastructure is not leadership. It’s negligence.

My fellow Democrats and I stand ready to solve Wisconsin’s transportation problems. We stand ready to lead.

Mark Spreitzer represents the 45th Assembly District.

Mayor Tom Barrett confident in State of the City address

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett struck a confident tone during his State of the City address on Feb. 8, despite a spike in homicides and a federal review of the city’s police department.

Barrett said his plan for Wisconsin’s largest city includes economic development, health care and violence prevention, but he didn’t mention the Department of Justice-led investigation of Milwaukee police. He said a plan to put body cameras on each officer by the end of the year is “on-track and on-budget,” and that the effort is vital for transparency and reform. The federal review was launched following the shooting death of a homeless black man at the hands of a white officer in a downtown park that spawned a series of protests. The officer involved was fired but not prosecuted.

Here’s what the mayor said about key issues:

HOMICIDES: Barrett acknowledged a significant increase in homicides — 145 in 2015, compared with 86 the previous year — and said the solution would involve community partnerships focused on youth development. He also said the county and state should work with Milwaukee police to deal with violent young offenders. Barrett said over a heckler that police took 2,500 guns off the street in 2015, a 9 percent increase over the previous year. An unidentified woman yelled: “What about the children?”

YOUTH PRISONS: The mayor didn’t mention an ongoing investigation into allegations of abuse at Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake during his address, but he said afterward that he planned to speak with stakeholders about the matter this week. He said the situation at the Irma facilities was “a fiasco — a manmade disaster.” He said he was aware of a Milwaukee County plan to move 170 young offenders from Lincoln Hills but that alternative housing hasn’t been announced.

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT: Barrett said the city will continue to reduce neighborhood blight by selling foreclosed homes, demolishing run-down buildings and giving vacant lots to adjacent property owners. He said the work has created jobs and raised property values. He also touted a construction boom downtown and said many contracts have gone to local small businesses.

HEALTH CARE: Barrett hailed a new clinic that plans to offer adolescent and primary care on the northwest side, where he said a large population has few options for children’s health care. He also addressed a plan to put nursing students in two dozen schools and efforts to reduce teen pregnancies.

REFUGEES: The mayor delivered his remarks from the Hmong American Peace Academy. He said that as politicians call for limiting refugee entries, it’s important to recognize the origins of a community that has found success after fleeing Southeast Asia during and after the Vietnam War.

RE-ELECTION: Barrett, a Democrat who was elected mayor in 2004, is seeking re-election and faces a primary challenge Feb. 16 from Alderman Bob Donovan, Alderman Joe Davis and James Methu. 

Study identifies 12 most wasteful highway projects in U.S.

A new study by the United States Public Interest Research Group Education Fund and Frontier Group identifies the most wasteful highway projects across the country, slated to collectively cost at least $24 billion.

The study details how despite massive repair and maintenance backlog and in defiance of America’s changing transportation needs, state governments continue to spend billions each year on new and wider highways.

The study shows how some of the projects are “outright boondoggles.”

“Many state governments continue to prioritize wasteful highway projects that fail to effectively address congestion while leaving our roads and bridges to crumble,” said John Olivieri, national campaign director for 21st century transportation at the U.S. PIRG and co-author of the report.

“This in turn saddles future generations with massive repair and maintenance backlogs that only grow more painful and expensive to fix the longer we wait to do so,” he noted.

The report says these are examples of waste:

• I-95 Widening, Connecticut, $11.2 billion. Widening the highway across the entire state of Connecticut would do little to solve congestion along one of the nation’s most high-intensity travel corridors, while further investment in rail infrastructure has long been overdue.

• Tampa Bay Express Lanes, Florida, $3.3 billion. State officials admit that a decades-old plan to construct toll lanes would not solve the region’s problems with congestion, while displacing critical community job-training and recreational facilities.

• U.S. 20 widening, Iowa, $286 million. Hundreds of millions of dollars that could pay for much-needed repairs to existing roads are being diverted to widen a road that does not need expansion to handle future traffic.

• Paseo del Volcan extension, New Mexico, $96 million. A major landholder is hoping to get taxpayer funding to build a road that would open thousands of acres of desert to sprawling development.

• State Highway 45 Southwest, Texas, $109 million. Building a new, four-mile, four-lane toll road would increase traffic on one of the most congested highways in Austin and increase water pollution in an environmentally sensitive area critical for recharging an aquifer that provides drinking water to 2 million Texans.

• San Gabriel Valley Route 710 tunnel, California, $3.2 billion to $5.6 billion. State officials are considering the most expensive, most polluting and least effective option for addressing the area’s transportation problems: a double bore tunnel.

• I-70 East widening, Colorado, $58 million. While replacing a crumbling viaduct that needs to be addressed, Colorado proposes wasting millions of dollars widening the road and increasing pollution in the surrounding community.

• I-77 Express Lanes, North Carolina, $647 million. A project that state criteria say does not merit funding is moving forward because a private company is willing to contribute; taxpayers will still be on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars.

• Puget Sound Gateway, Washington, $2.8 billion to $3.1 billion. The state is proposing to spend billions of dollars on a highway to relieve congestion in an area where traffic has not grown for more than a decade, and where other pressing needs for transportation funding exist.

• State Highway 249 extension, Texas, $337 million to $389 million. The Texas Department of Transportation relies on outdated traffic projections to justify building a 30-mile six-lane highway through an area already suffering from air quality.

• Portsmouth bypass, Ohio, $429 million. Despite roads across Ohio being in dire need of repair, the state Department of Transportation is embarking upon its most expensive project ever: building a new road to bypass a 20,000-person city where driving is decreasing.

• Mon-Fayette Expressway extension, Pennsylvania, $1.7 billion. A new toll road long criticized because it would damage communities is moving forward in an area where residents are calling instead for repairs to existing roads and investment in transit improvements.

Recent federal data show that more than 61,000 bridges or roughly one in 10 are structurally deficient nationwide. While other data show that states are overwhelming investing scarce transportation dollars in expansion rather than repair — collectively spending 20.4 billion (55 percent) expanding 1 percent of the current system, while spending just 16.5 billion (45 percent) repairing and maintaining the other 99 percent.

At the same time, the research shows states are failing to account for changing transportation trends, especially among millennials.

“America’s long-term travel needs are changing, especially among Millennials, who are driving fewer miles, getting driver’s licenses in fewer numbers, and expressing greater preferences to live in areas where they do not need to use a car often,” said Tony Dutzik senior policy analyst at the Frontier Group.

“Despite the fact that millennials are the nation’s largest generation, and the unquestioned consumers of tomorrow’s transportation system, states are failing to adequately respond to these changing trends,” he added.

The study recommends states:

• Adopt fix-it-first policies that reorient transportation funding away from highway expansion and toward repair of existing roads and bridges;

• Invest in transportation solutions that reduce the need for costly and disruptive highway expansion projects by improving and expanding public transit, biking, and walking options;

• Give priority to funding transportation projects that reduce the number of vehicle-miles people travel each year, thereby also reducing air pollution, carbon-emissions, and future road repair and maintenance needs;

The report also looks back at the 11 highway “boondoggles” identified in 2014, including in Wisconsin.

Since that original report came out, several states revisited plans to expand and build new highways. The Trinity Parkway project in Dallas was revised from a six-lane road to a more limited four-lane road and the proposal to create a double-decker tunnel for I-94 in Milwaukee was postponed for the foreseeable future. Also, the Illiana Expressway, a proposed $1.3 billion to $2.8 billion toll-way intended to stretch from I-55 in Illinois to I-65 in Indiana was placed on indefinite hold.

“Investing so heavily in new and wider highways at a time when so much of our existing infrastructure is in terrible disrepair is akin to putting an extension on your house while the roof is leaking. It just doesn’t make any sense,” said Olivieri.

High-speed rail plans meet opposition in southeast Minnesota

Opposition is growing in rural southeastern Minnesota to proposals for a high-speed rail line connecting Minneapolis and Rochester.

Rochester civic leaders see high-speed rail as a way to draw thousands of new workers to the Mayo Clinic and other big employers in their region.

But people living along the U.S. Highway 52 corridor see problems and costs with the Zip Rail project, Minnesota Public Radio News reported. Trains on the proposed line would speed along at more than 150 mph, cutting the roughly 90-minute ride from Rochester to the Twin Cities in half.

“Our farms are important and our industry is important. And nobody once notified me and sent me a letter and said, ‘Hey, we’re looking at this plan,’” said Heather Arndt, who lives on a 35-acre farm near Goodhue.

Arndt last year joined with other neighbors to form a grass-roots group called Citizens Concerned about Rail Line, which opposes any form of high-speed rail along the corridor. The group’s members are worried about potential loss of farm and taxable land, loss of traffic that supports local business and the lack of any stops between Rochester and the Twin cities.

Rural southeastern Minnesota should not have to bear a cost for Rochester’s multi-billion dollar Destination Medical Center development plan, and the 30,000 to 40,000 workers the development plan is expected to draw over the next 20 years, Arndt contends.

“If their choice is to take a great job opportunity in Rochester but they prefer to live in the Cities, that is their personal choice,” Arndt said. “It should not be the responsibility, the problem or (to) the economic disadvantage of people who live between the two places to have to pay for that.”

Traffic on Highway 52 has grown steadily. According to a 2010 corridor study by the Minnesota Department of Transportation, volume on the highway could nearly double to about 87,000 vehicles a day by 2025, up from 47,000 in 2000.

Earlier this year, officials with the state Transportation Department released eight corridor options as well as Zip Rail’s potential social, economic and environmental impacts. Now, the agency is wrapping up an environmental review of the rail line due out at the beginning of next year. MnDOT paid for the $2.3 million study mostly with state funds.

Private investors are pushing a second rail option. The North American High Speed Rail Group proposes an 84-mile elevated line to be built over Highway 52. The line would run along the median, which would be the least disruptive to the region’s farming, said Wendy Meadley, the group’s chief strategy officer.

The privately held firm based in Bloomington says it has backing from undisclosed U.S. and Chinese investors and expects to raise $4.2 billion for the project. Once it receives a permit from MnDOT early next year, the group will have 120 days to complete its pre-development study.

I hope you can do better | Letters to the future: The Paris Climate Project

To the children of the future: we tried.

I was heartened when President Jimmy Carter was promoting and modeling fuel conservation. I was horrified when President Ronald Reagan dispensed with that message and heralded the era of gas-guzzling SUVs and other use of fossil fuels with disregard of the consequence.

I’ve been involved with environmental groups for many years, working to curb global warming and other effects of environmental degradation. I personally felt helpless as big corporate money purchased our government and fostered denial of the real consequences of environmental destruction. I painfully watched species go extinct over the years with no cessation in sight.

The only comfort I can muster is keeping a historical context in mind: The Earth will eventually recover over the eons.

My wish for you is to keep fighting for the Earth we have now, knowing that you are angry that we didn’t do more when we had the chance.

Remember that some of us saw what was coming, tried to elect officials who would help plan better for the future that you now live in. Greed has always dominated and man has never lived in harmony with nature. Early extinctions are testimony to that. I just hope you can do a better job than we did.

Editor’s note: World leaders convene in Paris soon for the critical U.N. climate talks. In fact, December of 2015 may be humanity’s last chance to address the crisis of our time.

Will the nations of the world finally pass a global treaty aimed at reducing the most dangerous impacts of global warming … or will we fail at this most crucial task?

Here and on letterstothefuture.org, find letters from authors, artists, scientists and others, written to future generations of their own families, predicting the success or failure of the Paris talks and what came after. Read these letters and write one of your own. The letters will be sent to targeted delegates and citizens convening at the Paris talks.

$14.2 million federal grant to help launch Milwaukee streetcar line

The city of Milwaukee has been awarded $14.2 million in TIGER grant funds from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s for the Milwaukee Streetcar Lakefront Line.

The announcement of the grant came from the offices of U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin and U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore.

Baldwin, in a news release on Oct. 27, said, “This is a strong federal investment in 21st century Wisconsin infrastructure that will put people to work. The Milwaukee Streetcar will also help spur significant economic development and improve the quality of life for Milwaukee residents. I’m pleased to see this important project move forward and proud to have helped secure this investment in Milwaukee’s economy.”

Moore, a Democrat from Milwaukee, said, “Economic mobility is vital to our city’s future. That’s why I’ve dedicated so much time and effort in securing this multimillion federal grant for the Milwaukee Streetcar project. With this funding, we can expand our city’s public transportation options while fostering local economic growth and development. I’d like to thank Mayor Barrett for his continued efforts to help Milwaukee reach its full economic potential through this streetcar project.”

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett stated, “This critical federal grant for the Milwaukee Streetcar will bring thousands of residents and visitors to major attractions and new developments on Milwaukee’s lakefront. This announcement builds on the positive momentum we’re experiencing in the heart of the City and will also have a significant impact on our neighborhoods creating hundreds of construction jobs and better connecting our neighborhoods to downtown.” 

He continued, “This major investment will further enhance downtown Milwaukee’s recent renaissance, which includes $2.6 billion of public and private investment since 2005 and another $2.4 billion under construction or planned.”

The city already has committed $15 million toward the funding of the .4-mile Lakefront Line.

Created by Congress in 2009, the TIGER grant program directs the U.S. Department of Transportation to invest in a variety of transportation modes and selects projects through a merit-based process. The grant program also ensures that projects across the country are funded and includes several provisions to balance the needs of urban and rural areas.

The Line will link to the Phase 1 streetcar route and connect with major corporate employers, such as US Bank, Foley & Lardner, Northwestern Mutual, Johnson Controls, Artisan Partners, Robert W. Baird and Roundy’s Supermarkets. The line will also connect downtown’s central business district with numerous lakefront attractions, including the Milwaukee Art Museum, Discovery World science museum, Betty Brinn Children’s Museum, Lakeshore State Park and the Henry Maier Festival Park.