MCTS breaks ground on Wisconsin’s first BRT line

June 15, 2021
The nine-mile corridor will connect employment and education centers and is expected to boost transit ridership by 17 percent when it opens in 2022.

Milwaukee County Transit System (MCTS) held a groundbreaking ceremony June 10 on the state’s first bus rapid transit line, the East-West Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project. When it opens in 2022, the line will connect employment, education and recreation centers along a nine-mile corridor.

The project is funded in part through the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) Capital Investment Grants (CIG) program. In December, FTA and MCTS finalized a $40.9-million Small Starts Grant Agreement for the $55.05-million project.

“I often talk about connecting the dots and that’s exactly what this project is all about,” Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers told attendees at the groundbreaking ceremony. “The BRT will make it easier to get around while providing a more sustainable project for all of us and it’s going to boost the local economy and that’s the most important thing now – to bounce back from the COVID-19 pandemic – strong infrastructure, robust transportation and transit systems are absolutely vital to that goal.”

MCTS says the BRT route will operate primarily along Wisconsin Avenue, Bluemound Road and a portion of 92nd Street. Ultra-modern battery-electric buses will serve 33 individual, state-of-the-art stations located between Milwaukee’s lakefront and the Watertown Plank Road Park & Ride lot.

In March, MCTS awarded a contract to Nova Bus to provide 15 LFSE+ buses. The first 11 of these vehicles will run exclusively on the East-West BRT line with four additional vehicles joining regular routes.

HNTB has been working on the project since 2015, first through the feasibility study, then through preliminary and final design. The firm will now provide the project with construction management.

“Breaking ground on the East-West BRT line is an important milestone in transit for Milwaukee County and the state of Wisconsin,” said Ashley Booth, PE, HNTB Wisconsin office leader. “The route will enhance transit access along the region’s most vital, most traveled and most congested east-west corridor, and will play a critical role in advancing the region’s multimodal transportation system in a cost-effective, inclusive and equitable manner that will support economic development and access to jobs.”

HNTB says the East-West BRT line will average more than 9,500 weekday riders by 2035 and increase overall transit ridership in the corridor by 17 percent.

Construction is expected to begin in June and last two seasons, with revenue service expected to begin in fall 2022.

About the Author

Mischa Wanek-Libman | Group Editorial Director

Mischa Wanek-Libman serves as editor in chief of Mass Transit magazine and group editorial director of the Infrastructure and Aviation Group at Endeavor Business Media. She is responsible for developing and maintaining the editorial direction of the group and is based in the western suburbs of Chicago.

Wanek-Libman has spent more than 20 years covering transportation issues including construction projects and engineering challenges for various commuter railroads and transit agencies. She has been recognized for editorial excellence through her individual work, as well as for collaborative content. 

She is an active member of the American Public Transportation Association's Marketing and Communications Committee and serves as a Board Observer on the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association (NRC) Board of Directors.  

She is a graduate of Drake University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Mass Communication with a major in magazine journalism and a minor in business management.