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Madison - Mayor Dave Cieslewicz said today that he will propose a binding referendum on any streetcar proposal that might emerge from a committee that is currently studying the idea. Cieslewicz plans to introduce a resolution at the next Common Council meeting that would require a referendum before the City would go forward with a project.

Cieslewicz said it would be a three-step process:

1. Allow the Streetcar Study Committee to complete its proposal for a streetcar system sometime this summer.

2. Evaluate that proposal together with recommendations from other committees reviewing transit issues, such as Transport 2020, which is studying commuter rail, and the Mayor's ad hoc committee on the long-term future of the Madison Metro bus system.

3. If there is agreement to go ahead with the streetcar or a more comprehensive proposal, he would take that to a public referendum before the project moved forward.

"I won't go ahead with streetcars unless they make sense for Madison and have the support of the public," Cieslewicz said. "We need to give the Streetcar Study Committee the opportunity to fully develop a proposal so that the public can make an informed decision about whether or not this is right for Madison. One thing is for sure: with 100,000 more cars on the horizon, we can't rule out any option right now, and we can't afford to be close-minded."

Streetcars are being studied as one possible way to address the increasing congestion and pollution issues in the Madison area. An estimated 100,000 more cars are expected to be on Dane County roads over the next 20 years. The mayor has taken a multi-faceted approach to this issue since taking office, including:

• Over $150 million invested in construction and reconstruction of City streets and a new program to speed up rebuilding of certain arterials. Objective street condition ratings performed by engineers have improved each of the last four years.

• A 35% increase in City funding for Madison Metro since 2003 with no fare increases or substantial service cuts for two years.

• Appointment of the Long Range Metro Transit Planning Committee to study ways to increase business support for the bus service, make the bus system more regional and explore new bus technologies.

• Purchase of some of the nation's first diesel electric hybrid buses.

• Significant investments in bike trails and connectors, such as the "Missing Link."

• Participation in the Transport 2020 committee that is studying issues including commuter rail.

• Partnership with Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and others to promote a high-speed rail link between Madison and Milwaukee as part of a broader Chicago-Minneapolis corridor.

Cieslewicz noted that there is precedent for holding referenda on major projects such as this, like Monona Terrace and the Goodman Pool.


  • George Twigg, 608-266-4611