Apparently, the city and The Milwaukee Electric Railway and Transport Company could not come to terms on who would pay for the rail removal, and the scrap value wasn't that great; thus the Department of Public Works did the equivalent of sweeping stuff under the rug.
Rail Historian Chuck Demaske [c.q.] says back when the streetcars last rolled down the tracks in 1958 the city and rail operator fought over who should remove the rails. Expense was the main issue with one side saying it would cost close to $30,000 and the other $80,000.That's not the first time a total rebuilding of the streets included the removal of long-covered over rails. We documented a similar project in Waukesha in 2008. In Milwaukee, it's likely that any full rebuilding of Fifth Street south of Lincoln Avenue will turn up the rails of the North Shore Line, which was once used by dinkies and Electroliners alike.
“They compromised at about $54,000 a mile to take out the rail and eventually what happened is the transport company abandoned the lines,” Demaske [c.q.] said.
So the lines were paved over and now as city streets are completely reconstructed, or in this case dug up for the streetcar, the rails are showing up again. Downtown Alderman Bob Bauman, a supporter of the streetcar system, says it’s an example of “very old and very new simultaneously going in the same footprint.”