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After 5 years of planning, politics: Ground broken on new Bus Rapid Transit line

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Ground was broken Thursday morning on what state and Milwaukee leaders are calling the future of public transit.

The first-of-its-kind bus line will help connect workers to downtown jobs and residents to health care.

A new east-west Bus Rapid Transit route will run from Van Buren and Wisconsin to the medical complex and beyond.

Before the project's official groundbreaking, work had already begun days earlier.

"This is a project that is long overdue," U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore said.

Supporters, like the Democratic Congresswoman praised the BRT, as it's come to be called.

The project will feature all-electric buses using dedicated lanes and elevated, accessible platforms to dramatically cut travel times.

Though the "rapid" buses won't actually exceed the speed limit.

The 9-mile route will link downtown, the Marquette University campus, the Milwaukee County Zoo and for suburban commuters, the Watertown Plank Park and Ride.

Workers will build 33 platform sites on the route.

One in particular may be one of the most critical to the project.

It will be in the heart of the regional medical complex and was something Moore said was essential to many residents who rely on public transit for access to health care.

"Non-drivers are real people," she said. "This is not an abstraction. These are people who, without a transportation system, can not make it out to Froedtert (Hospital)."

One of the stops on the route is nearly in Tom Caldwell's front yard.

But he saw the work as progress.

"I can understand why they're doing this to improve their system," Caldwell told WISN 12.

Gov. Tony Evers, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, Wauwatosa Mayor Dennis McBride and Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley were among those who took part in the ceremonial shovel-turning.

The $55 million project is funded primarily through a federal grant.

It was expected to begin operation late next year.

The east-west connection has been in the works since 2016.

From end-to-end, it was expected to cut current bus travel times by eight minutes.

READ MORE:After 5 years of planning, politics: Ground broken on new Bus Rapid Transit line

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