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Friday news drop: electric buses, bigger freeways and voting

Milwaukee’s a big city with a lot going on. Catch up before spending your weekend either purposely or accidentally ignoring the news.

MCTS unveils all-electric bus

The Milwaukee County Transit System introduced its very first battery electric bus Thursday night, giving us a sneak preview for when the environmentally friendlier transportation option hits the streets next June. The new addition to the fleet got its very own branding called MCTS Connect, which you’ll see traveling the East-West Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system when summer rolls around. 

The line will cover 9.1 miles and include 19 stations linking downtown Milwaukee, the west side, Marquette University, Wauwatosa and the Milwaukee Regional Medical Center. The MCTS expects the project to boost overall transit ridership along the route by 17%, averaging 9,500 weekday riders by 2035.

It’s been a long road for the BRT project, which started back in 2016, and the MCTS Connect bus unveiled this week is a featured player in phase one. Nova Bus — a division of Volvo — manufactured the zero-emission vehicle that features a very pleasant light-blue exterior and USB-A charging stations.

Feels like USB-C might’ve been the more forward-looking choice, but, hey, at least we’re trying to do something nice for the planet.

DOT still wants to widen I-94

In stark contrast to our last news item, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation shared its new study involving I-94 on the city’s west side between 16th and 70th streets. Turns out the new recommendation is the same as the old one: widen the stretch from six lanes to eight.

“As traffic increases, safety and traffic operations on this corridor will continue to deteriorate,” the study reads. “By 2050, increased traffic volumes will cause nearly this entire section of I-94 to operate at level of service D to F during peak periods.”

Those opposing the project say it continues the long history of freeways having a disproportionately negative impact on communities of color and fails to address environmental concerns. Aldermen Michael Murphy and Robert Bauman, whose districts fall in the I-94 corridor being discussed, released this statement:

“We have heard time and time again that residents want to see valuable public dollars allocated to the repair of existing local roads, other critical local transportation infrastructure, and enhanced public transit. To invest such a hefty sum of money into a project that will disrupt businesses and homeowners represents spending priorities that do not align with what people want, especially when traffic volume doesn’t justify the need for additional lanes.”

If you want to let the DOT know what you think of the project, you have two chances:

  • Dec. 12 from 3-7 p.m. at Wisconsin State Fair Park’s Tommy Thompson Youth Center
  • Dec. 14 from 4-7 p.m. at Marquette University High School

Voters say yes to marijuana, no to guns

There were a couple advisory referendums on the ballot this week, and Milwaukee County voters made it very clear how they felt on both issues.

The first asked: “Do you favor allowing adults 21 years of age and older to engage in the personal use of marijuana, while also regulating commercial marijuana-related activities, and imposing a tax on the sale of marijuana?" The final tally was 235,364 voting yes vs. 81,481 voting no (74.3% in favor).

The second asked: "Should the Wisconsin Legislature prohibit the import, sale, manufacture, transfer, or possession of semi-automatic 'military-style' firearms whose prohibition is allowed under the Wisconsin and United States Constitutions?" In the end, 218,512 voted yes, and 98,106 said no (69% in favor).

So now what happens? Nothing, probably. These questions are on the ballot to see what voters think. They’re non-binding, and the people in charge aren’t required to do anything about them.

That’s it for now. Enjoy your weekend!