Friday, April 30, 2010

Two articles on SE Wisconsin rail. Same paper, different angles.

Does anyone else find this juxtaposition strange? Today's Daily Reporter, a pro-labor union paper carried two stories about SE Wisconsin, both mentioning development and the KRM train, the proposed Kenosha-Racine-Milwaukee train line that would be an extension of the popular Metra line that runs through Chicago's northern suburbs.

That line currently stops in Kenosha, and there is no train service from Racine or Kenosha to Milwaukee. The closest train is in Sturtevant, WI, west of Mt. Pleasant. That is the Hiawatha line that runs six times per day between Chicago and Milwaukee. (And makes money, by the way.)

To relieve congestion on I-94, the KRM was proposed as an alternative, but its future is in doubt, since the Wisconsin Legislature finished it's session without passing taxing authority for the SE Wisconsin RTA.

So today, one article, "Waiting for Change," talks about the transition, actual or possible, or SE Wisconsin to less a manufacturing base and more a series of bedroom communities for Chicago and Milwaukee, especially Chicago.  It prominently mentions the KRM as both a transportation option and a development tool.

And then another article today, "Fighting Over the Railroad," talks about both legislative efforts to pass the RTA legislation and local resistance to kicking in funds.

It also talks about the development that could come with the KRM line, however one commentator misses the point.

“Kenosha has had commuter rail to Chicago for 20-plus years,” Kisley said. “There’s no development there.”

Kisley said his group, along with other taxpayer groups such as the Racine Taxed Enough Already Party, will continue to oppose the project and pressure legislators.
What he fails to see is that the KRM would allow people to travel into Milwaukee, a much shorter trip than Chicago. Sure, as the first article points out, many people are willing to travel all the way from Kenosha to Chicago to get cheaper housing, lower taxes, and lake access. But think what an extension of that same lien would do for Racine and Kenosha if people could quickly and conveniently get to Milwaukee as well.

However, that isn't going to happen for awhile now.

As a former developer, Racine Mayor John Dickert said he experienced an immediate effect when the state Assembly effectively killed the KRM project in 2008. He said he had been working on $40 million worth of developments, only to have the deals fall through because the KRM did not move forward.
Oh, well, I guess Racine and Kenosha just aren't ready to grab the opportunities in front of them.