By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Apr 06, 2018 at 3:01 PM

In advance of on-street testing of the new streetcar, which is expected to begin next week, the media was invited into the Streetcar Operations and Maintenance Facility (OMF), 450 N. 5th St.  beneath I-794, a half-block north of the Intermodal Station  on Friday afternoon.

Testing of The Hop streetcar, which arrived in Milwaukee on the back of a semi March 26, is slated to start next week on the north side of West St. Paul Avenue, between North Plankinton Avenue and North 4th Street, on a section of track that will be fenced-off for safety reasons.

City officials are encouraging the curious to come out and watch, but urging onlookers not to attempt to enter the fenced area.

The testing is expected to run through June. 

During the testing period, automobile traffic on that section of St. Paul will only be open to eastbound drivers. During the testing, cars will not have access to St. Paul at North 2nd and North 3rd Streets, according to the city.

The city is expecting delivery of four more streetcar vehicles in the coming months and testing along the full route is planned for July. The route is slated to open to passengers in November. As part of Potawatomi Hotel & Casino's $10 million sponsorship, all rides will be free the first year.

The streetcar's second phase is expected to go online in 2019.

Inside the operations and maintenance facility – which is nestled beneath I-794 Downtown, making some otherwise dead space useful – the streetcars can pull into a bay that offers access not only to the interior and exterior, but also to the undercarriage and the equipment on the roof.

An adjacent track has jacks and a crane to raise cars, if necessary.

There's also a storage area and offices. The northernmost part houses the wash bay, with a so-called "wash-bot" that is used to clean the exteriors of the vehicles.

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 OnMilwaukee.com 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.