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City picks streetcar manufacturer

Sunday, November 15, 2015 6:57 AM | Jeff Wien (Administrator)

A rendering of a Brookville streetcar in Milwaukee's Third Ward. Milwaukee's streetcars will be manufactured by U.S.-based Brookville Equipment Corp.

By Mary Spicuzza of the Journal Sentinel
Nov. 13, 2015

The City of Milwaukee has chosen a company to build the first four vehicles for its streetcar project.

Brookville Equipment Corp., a nearly 100-year-old Pennsylvania-based company that manufactures streetcars as well as locomotives and mining equipment, was picked in a Friday vote by the city's streetcar committee.

The $18.6 million contract calls for Brookville to initially build four cars. The company could be tapped to make a fifth vehicle for the streetcar's Lakefront Line in the near future, and may eventually manufacture as many as 24 total vehicles for Milwaukee.

Mayor Tom Barrett celebrated the news as "another major milestone" for the streetcar project.

"We had a thorough review, and we're moving forward," Barrett said Friday.

Each streetcar will be 66 feet long and 8 feet 8 inches wide, have 32 seats and hold up to 150 passengers. The vehicles will have two doors on each side, provide access for wheelchairs and bicycles to be transported, and at some point could be equipped to offer Wi-Fi. The cars will each weigh about 79,000 pounds when empty.

The contract calls for the first vehicle to be delivered to Milwaukee in about 24 months.

Michael White, a sales manager for Brookville, said the company's streetcar projects include New Orleans, San Francisco, Dallas and Disneyland.

White said 70 Brookville streetcars are in operation.

The car, known as the Liberty Modern Streetcar, is a "very safe car" and is designed to have a "30-year life," White said. The maximum speed is 42 miles per hour, but it could go higher in the future, he said.

The streetcars will be manufactured at the company's Pennsylvania plant.

The vote by the Joint Committee on Downtown Streetcar Implementation to authorize the contract with Brookville came about three weeks after Ghassan Korban, commissioner of the city's Department of Public Works, said the city was close to finalizing a deal with its preferred vendor.

The proposals were evaluated using four criteria: budget, qualifications, technical capabilities and aesthetics. Korban said Brookville's proposal was deemed to be the "best value," and was also the cheapest overall.

He praised the "modern and sleek" look of the cars, and said he was confident in their safety and performance.

"We are very confident that this vehicle will be able to run 365 days a year in Milwaukee," Korban said. "So during the hottest days, and during the coldest and snowiest days."

The agreement came less than a month after the city was awarded a $14.2 million federal grant for construction of a line connecting the streetcar with the lakefront.

The streetcar plan, which aims to connect the Milwaukee Intermodal Station with the city's lower east side, was approved by the Common Council in February. The project's capital budget is $128 million for a 2.5-mile route, with an estimated $3.2 million operating and maintenance budget.

Late last month, local and federal officials announced the city had been awarded a $14.2 million federal grant for construction of the spur connecting the streetcar with the lakefront. The award was from the federal TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) program. The Lakefront Line, which was approved by the Common Council along with the first phase of the streetcar in February, would connect Cathedral Square to the lakefront using Broadway and Milwaukee, Michigan and Clybourn streets. It will also link the streetcar to the Couture development, which has a stop planned.

Initially, it was anticipated that the city would break ground on the project by late 2015, but the groundbreaking now is expected to occur sometime in spring 2016. The streetcars are expected to start running in fall 2018.

The streetcar project has faced some vocal opponents who question the cost and how many riders it might have. Barrett repeatedly has touted the key role it will play as development projects spring up throughout downtown.

"We think this is going to have a positive impact on property values and economic development," the mayor said Friday.

Barrett added that a millions of dollars in federal grants being used for the project were awarded years ago, and cannot be used for other expenses.

Also on Friday, Jeffrey Kober, the CEO and president of Cudahy-based Milwaukee Composites, announced that his company was donating flooring for the four vehicles.

Brookville was one of four companies that submitted proposals. The three other companies were Inekon Trams, in the Czech Republic, and German companies Siemens and Vossloh, Korban said.

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