Barrett Acknowledges Streetcar Concerns, But Praises Project

Mayor Says Construction On Time And On Budget

Chuck Quirmbach/WPR

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett is trying to defuse criticism about the streetcar project underway in his city.

The construction work that began this year along roughly two miles of streets in downtown Milwaukee and the city’s near East Side is noisy and has caused traffic delays and detours.

Even Barrett said he’s been delayed by some of the digging while on the way to a meeting.

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“And of course I started swearing, because the street was closed off, and then I thought, ‘Oh, wait a minute, this is the streetcar. I can’t be mad at this. This is going to be good at the end of the day,’” Barrett told streetcar construction workers on Wednesday.

A group trying to gather enough signatures to recall Barrett has listed the streetcar as one of its concerns. But the mayor said construction work, which will cost about $64 million, is on time and on budget. He said the project will eventually boost economic development in the city.

Meanwhile, the project is paying the salaries of hundreds of workers. Kurt Bertling, a concrete finisher, said it’s hard work, but rewarding.

“There’s a lot of hands and knees, and quite a bit of hands-on preparation with it,” Bertling said, stressing that he’s OK with the physical demands. “I love my job,” he said, laughing.

The Milwaukee streetcar is scheduled to begin carrying passengers late next year.