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This mayor dreams of streetcars

Today the Brewers play at Miller Park and the Braves are long gone, but streetcars may be making a comeback.

Mayor Tom Barrett is the prime mover behind Milwaukee’s plan to build a brand-new streetcar system. Bright, modern vehicles would traverse a two-mile route through the city’s east side, downtown and historic Third Ward, a former warehouse area now popular for its shops and restaurants.

Barrett believes flashy streetcars can revitalize Milwaukee’s city front and points to the popularity of the 10-year-old system in Portland, Ore. Today’s streetcars, Barrett says, are more about attracting attention than providing transportation. “I look at this as an economic development tool,” Barrett said.

Portland’s system has been a model for cities across the country. Among them are Kansas City, Mo., which is planning a $93 million system, and St. Louis, which has a $43 million line in the works.

For now, transit advocates are focusing attention on Milwaukee, where Barrett’s grand scheme is advancing, but not without opposition. Foes have dubbed the plan “A Streetcar Named Disaster.”

— Chicago Tribune

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