By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published May 12, 2017 at 3:02 PM

Decades after the old streetcars stopped rolling in Brew City (in 1958, trainspotters), rails are returning to Downtown Milwaukee streets.

The initial phase of the streetcar project is expected to be up and running by 2018. The second phase – the Lakefront Line – is slated to open the following year.

Rails for the new $128 million Milwaukee Streetcar began arriving Downtown in late March when the initial batch of 80-foot sections were delivered. Ultimately, 494 such sections were delivered by March 27 for installation.

By early April, crews were welding the rails into 320-foot segments, a process observed by students from Milwaukee Public Schools' Bradley Tech High School.

Once welding was underway, route work – prepping the streets for installation by trenching, tearing up concrete – began in mid-April. You can see that work proceeding this week along West St. Paul Avenue, in front of the main post office.

Once the tracks are laid, concrete will be poured around them. That would should take place in the next few weeks.

Work on other segments of the system are set to begin this year, too, along with installation of the overhead power lines – or "contact system" and the poles to support them.

Concrete footings for posts have begun to appear already along West St. Paul Avenue. Poles and cables are expected to be installed in autumn.

While some utility relocation work will continue throughout the construction process, the moving of WE Energies electric and gas lines, the main part of the relocation project, is largely complete.

Here is the latest status update from the streetcar website:

"The Milwaukee Streetcar is building momentum! The Phase 1 route and Lakefront Line are fully approved and funded. Vehicles have been ordered from Pennsylvania's Brookville Manufacturing Co. A general contractor, Kiewit Infrastructure, has been hired to construct the system. Utility relocation work is significantly complete. Rail was delivered in March 2017 and guideway/track construction is underway. The City is now seeking a partner to operate the system. The Phase 1 route is slated to begin serving area residents, workers and visitors in late 2018 with the Lakefront Line extension launching service in 2019."

Here are some images of the process:

Crews weld rails along Broadway, at Highland, in early April

Sign board explaining the process

Track being installed on West St. Paul Avenue

Rail awaiting installation on West St. Paul Avenue

Concrete footings for the power lines are going in on St. Paul

Rebar forms for power line post installation

A close-up of a section of track

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.

He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.