News Milestone Achievement for East-West BRT Project

The U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT) and Federal Transit Administration (FTA) announced today the execution of a $40.9 million grant award to Milwaukee County, clearing the way for the East-West Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project to move forward.

This Small Starts Grant Agreement (SSGA) is a significant milestone achievement in that it finalizes the federal government’s commitment to cover almost 80 percent of the $55.05 million project. 

The nine-mile East-West BRT, which is a first-of-its-kind undertaking in Wisconsin, will allow MCTS to better connect major employment, education and recreation destinations through downtown Milwaukee, Marquette University, Milwaukee’s Near West Side, Wauwatosa and the Milwaukee Regional Medical Center.

BRT passengers will enjoy more efficient, higher frequency service thanks to the utilization of battery-electric buses, dedicated bus lanes, traffic signal priority, off-board fare collection, optimized stop locations, state-of-the-art platforms that allow for easy boarding, and other exciting amenities. 

“We appreciate the FTA’s commitment to helping improve transit infrastructure here in southeast Wisconsin,” said MCTS Managing Director Dan Boehm. “Our team has worked hard to move this project from concept to implementation. We’re looking forward to breaking ground on station construction this Spring so that current and new riders will soon be able to experience the future of public transportation.”

“This is great news for Milwaukee County and our state,” said Governor Tony Evers. “The East-West BRT will help ensure more access to reliable transportation and make it easier for folks to get to work, home, and school. I appreciate the work of our local, state, and federal partners to make this project possible.”

“I am a strong supporter of this investment from the Federal Transit Administration in Milwaukee County’s public transportation system,” said U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin. “This federal funding will support a collaboration led by the County to move forward on the state’s first Bus Rapid Transit project. The East-West BRT is an exciting development and will provide services to the community that better connect people with major employment, education, and recreation destinations.”

“I could not be more pleased with this fantastic news regarding final federal approval of an additional transportation option for my constituents and the residents of Milwaukee County,” said Congresswoman Gwen Moore. “I applaud the efforts by Milwaukee County, MCTS, and the Federal Transit Administration to bring the project to life. Strong, reliable public transit is critical for our region and I look forward to building on this project’s momentum.”

“This historic project is an example of how – with the Federal Transit Administration’s support – Milwaukee County is investing in equity and bridging the gap in racial disparities across the board,” said Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley. “Being able to get from point A to point B is essential for Milwaukee County residents trying to access all the opportunities the county has to offer and enjoy a high quality of life. Bus Rapid Transit will strengthen our entire transit network and move Milwaukee County closer to fulfilling its vision of achieving racial equity and becoming the healthiest county in Wisconsin.”

Since 2016, Milwaukee County has been working collaboratively with the FTA, City of Milwaukee, City of Wauwatosa, Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT), Milwaukee Regional Medical Center (MRMC), Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission (SEWRPC), residents, businesses, non-profits and other institutions — to bring this innovative project to the state.

The BRT project team recently released a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) as part of the process to secure a construction contractor. Additionally, the project team is currently working to select a manufacturer for 11 battery-electric buses. This will be the first time these ultra-modern vehicles are used in southeast Wisconsin.

Construction is slated to begin in Spring 2021, with revenue service starting as early as Fall 2022.

Additional Reaction:

  • “The Milwaukee County Department of Transportation is thrilled that the East-West BRT project has reached this critical milestone. We cannot thank the project partners enough for their discussions and coordination since 2016 to make this project a success. Specifically, we would like to thank the Federal Transit Administration’s Region 5 Regional Administrator Kelley Brookins and her team for their guidance and direction for the first Capital Investment Grant for Milwaukee County. Our investments in our transit system will help connect underserved communities and communities of color where frequent, efficient transit services improve quality of life for so many.” -Donna Brown-Martin, Director of Milwaukee County Department of Transportation
  • “The news of federal support for the BRT project is a welcome step forward as we seek to improve MCTS service. The BRT will help get more people to good paying jobs and improve efficiency of bus service in my district, and we’re excited to implement this new route.” -Marcelia Nicholson, Chairwoman of Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors
  • “The Milwaukee County Transit System is continuously working to improve efficiency and service, and consistently provides a great value to Milwaukee County residents and business owners. This additional funding will allow MCTS to expand its service and continue to promote job creation and economic activity that moves our community forward.” -John Weishan, County Supervisor and Chair of the Transportation, Public Works and Transit Committee
  • “Congratulations to Milwaukee County and MCTS on executing the first FTA Capital Investment Grant in the Region and State. This investment in improved transit in the Region’s most heavily traveled corridor is an important step in implementing the public transit element of VISION 2050, southeastern Wisconsin’s long-range land use and transportation plan. The East-West BRT will connect major regional economic centers to each other and residents to jobs and other opportunities. Transit improvements like this are vital to the Region’s future and are necessary to build a more equitable, economically resilient southeastern Wisconsin.” -Kevin Muhs, Executive Director of Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission (SEWRPC)
  • “This $40.9 million federal grant will provide Milwaukee residents increased access to jobs, healthcare, educational opportunities, and other community services.” -Elaine L. Chao, Secretary of U.S. Department of Transportation
  • “FTA is proud to join our partners in Wisconsin to improve public transportation in Milwaukee. The East-West BRT project will provide fast and efficient service, improving mobility and travel times in this busy corridor. This federal investment is an economic boost for Milwaukee County as the project will create jobs and help communities continue to recover from the COVID-19 public health emergency.” -K. Jane Williams, Deputy Administrator of Federal Transit Administration