Editor's Note: The Milwaukee Connector resolution passed the Steering and Rules Committee on April 27. The full Common Council will consider the matter at the meeting on May 9.
Milwaukee lags behind in the modern transportation game. Visit any large and many medium-sized city in America and you can expect to see an efficient, modern and innovative transportation system in action. Simply put, Milwaukee isn't delivering.
Denver, Houston, St. Louis, Minneapolis, Cleveland, Portland ... the list goes on and on ... many cities are passing Milwaukee by.
The Milwaukee Connector could change this. It's a proposed 13-mile, rubber-tired fixed tramline that's been in the works for years, and it's finally inching toward becoming reality.
For six years, the Milwaukee Connector Study Steering Committee has evaluated transit improvements Downtown and in surrounding neighborhoods. The Steering Committee is comprised of four voting members: the Wisconsin Center District (WCD), Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce (MMAC), Milwaukee County and City of Milwaukee.
But, like all new projects, there's still much work to be done. Two of the study's four sponsors, the WCD and the MMAC, back the idea of connecting tourist destinations, hotels, shopping, jobs and schools with new state-of-the-art electric powered guided trams. The MMAC board, a traditionally conservative entity, unanimously endorsed the Milwaukee Connector. Several retailers and business leaders also back the Milwaukee Connector.
One leg would run from North 35th Street near Burleigh, along Fond du Luc Avenue, to Downtown. Other routes would connect Miller Park, UWM, the Third Ward and other areas. The Connector also would replace 1,200 daily bus trips that currently pollute Wisconsin Avenue with 300 more efficient tram trips.
What Can You Do?
1. Attend the meeting on April 27: According to the City Clerk's office, appearing at the committee meeting is a citizen's best option to get their voice heard on an issue, whether in favor or opposed. It is the practice of the Common Council to hear all parties who sign-in at the meeting and indicate an interest in speaking. Depending on the number of people who want to speak, the committee chair may choose to limit the length of an individual's testimony. You may want to be prepared to speak for no more than two minutes.
2. Submit written comments: If you submit a letter or comments via email, mail or fax, and would like your letter to be part of the official Common Council file, please copy the City Clerk's office:
3. Call: You may also call. All members of the Common Council may be reached by phone at: (414) 286-2221
Should the resolution pass the Steering and Rules Committee on April 27, the full Common Council will consider the matter at the meeting on May 9.
Success for this new transportation solution depends on staking out common needs and interests. What the project doesn't need is for leaders to turn this into an "us versus them" issue.
As regional transit solutions develop and the new Amtrak station begins to take shape, we know the Milwaukee Connector can be a strong start at breaking through innovation barriers -- and more importantly, it will help break down the barriers of class, neighborhood and race that still exist. Transportation connects people, it encourages development, and it builds tax base. Depending on the final routes chosen, the Connector could have up to 35 stations and stops.
The Milwaukee Connector isn't a Republican or Democratic issue; it's a simple, quality-of-life improvement, like the Marquette Interchange project.
On Thurs., April 27, the Milwaukee Common Council votes to join the WCD and MMAC in their support of the guided trams, assuring three of four votes from the project's steering committee to move the project forward.
The County represents the fourth partner and is also considering legislation on governance. In June, the Steering Committee will be asked to make a recommendation and send the Milwaukee Connector plan to the Federal Government. The Feds could fund all but $57 million of the estimated $300 million cost.
In July 2003 the Common Council unanimously passed a resolution supporting the Milwaukee Connector project, opposing any transfer of the $91.5 million in federal funds that have been reserved for the Milwaukee Connector project in Milwaukee, and directed the City's representative on the Milwaukee Connector Steering Committee to immediately proceed with the next phase of the study.
So Milwaukee, this very well could be one of the biggest quality of life improvements in the heart of our city. It could define Milwaukee's future, or it could further cement Milwaukee's perception as just a second-tier Midwestern city.
With so much momentum in Milwaukee -- a $95 million Harley Davidson Museum, continued kudos for the Milwaukee Art Museum, neighborhood developments, downtown revitalization and more -- Milwaukee needs a more innovative transportation system to link it all together.
Contact your elected official today and let them know you support The Milwaukee Connector. All members of the Common Council may be reached by phone at (414) 286-2221 or faxed at (414) 286-3456.
You can also attend the hearing in person:
When: Thursday, April 27, 1:30 p.m.
Where: City of Milwaukee Common Council, City Hall, 200 E. Wells St.
What: Steering & Rules Committee
Title: "Resolution expressing the City of Milwaukee's support for the Milwaukee Connector public transit project."
Steering & Rules Committee:
Ald. Willie L. Hines, Jr., Chair District 15 (firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Ald. Michael J. Murphy, Vice Chair, District 10 (email@example.com)
Ald. James N. Witkowiak, District 12 (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Ald. Michael S. D'Amato, District 3 (email@example.com)
Ald. Robert G. Donovan, District 8 (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Ald. Joe Davis, Sr., District 2 (email@example.com)
Ald. Robert J. Bauman, District 4 (firstname.lastname@example.org)
All other Aldermen:
Ald. Ashanti Hamilton, District 1 (email@example.com)
Ald. James A. Bohl, Jr., District 5 (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Ald. Michael McGee, Jr., District 6 (email@example.com)
Ald. Willie C. Wade, District 7 (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Ald. Robert W. Puente, District 9 (email@example.com)
Ald. Joe Dudzik, District 11 (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Ald. Terry L. Witkowski, District 13 (email@example.com)
Ald. Tony Zielinski, District 14 (firstname.lastname@example.org)
To determine the district in which you live or work, check the map on the City of Milwaukee Common Council Web site at www.city.milwaukee.gov.
The Milwaukee Connector Web site is: www.milwaukeeconnector.com.