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News notable for KenRail in 2004

Internet links to source Web pages may no longer complete due to obsolesence

January 2004

Kenosha county executive offers K-R-M oversight plan - Allan Kehl, like his predecessor as county executive, sees necessity in advancing evaluation of Kenosha-Racine-Milwaukee commuter train service, necessity born of years of meticulous study by SE Wisc. Regional Planning Commission. In its Sunday, December 14 edition, Kenosha News headlined Mr. Kehl's proposal to apply talents of the public works directors for Kenosha, Racine and Milwakee counties and cities to supervise the preliminary engineering of K-R-M construction. Quoting Mr. Kehl, the News reported the arrangement emerged subsequent to a meeting with WisDOT Sec. Frank Busalcchi. "The goal is to keep this moving. We need to get phase two done," the News quoted him.
Kenosha county public works director Fred Patrie suggeted the organizational structure of six area public works directors and a liaison person for WisDOT. Mr. Patrie chaired the SEWRPC advisory committees which examined feasibility of commuter trains and detailed preliminary plans, and therefore is intimately acquainted with the specifications to be achieved during preliminary engineering over the next two years.
Racine mayor Gary Becker and Kenosha mayor John Antaramian also spoke favorably to the Kenosha News about the organizational concept. Mayor Becker acknowledged he's not crafted any alternative, while enthusing, "Let's get this thing done. That's my number one goal. I am for whatever moves it ahead." Mayor Antaramian also continued his steady support, telling the News this arrangement is "a wonderful idea. All of us want to see this happen. We all know this is good for the (Kenosha-Racine-Milwaukee) corridor."
Kenosha News and Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported in September that ten percent of the $4 million expense for preliminary engineering was pledged by mayors and county executives of Milwaukee, Racine and Kenosha. Mr. Kehl led his counterparts at that time in assuring continued progress as they agreed to match a 10 percent WisDOT share following a favorable recommendation in August by SEWRPC.

19 January 2004

Wisconsin DOT Sec. Frank Busalacchi OKs Kehl plan - Continuing steady support for Kenosha-Racine-Milwaukee commuter trains, Sec. Busalacchi approves of Kenosha county excutive Allan Kehl's recommendation for an "intergovernmental partnership," Kenosha News reports. Sec. Busalacchi directed his approval to Kenosha county public works director Fred Patrie in a letter which affirms an arrangement for six public works directors and a WisDOT representative to monitor and advise the preliminary engineering phase of the K-R-M project. State and federal portions of this $4 million phase will be matched by a 10 percent share split among city and county governments for Kenosha, Racine and Milwaukee in 2004 and 2005.
County Executive Allan Kehl told the News, "The secretary's comments were to join with us to make this a reality." Mr. Kehl has been at the forefront on behalf of extending Metra-type commuter train service northward from its present Kenosha endpoint, 52 miles from downtown Chicago. His leadership for this long-term growth initiative has persisted even as some have worried about costs and about day-to-day, month-to-month and annual budget impacts.
Mr. Patrie chaired the SEWRPC advisory committee during a detailed study which resulted last August in a recommendation to upgrade 32 miles of Union Pacific track paralleling Lake Michigan shoreline in southeast Wisconsin and to acquire trainsets compatible with Metra operations. Plans call for operating seven weekday trains to Milwaukee and seven southward trains to Kenosha and Chicago in complement. Preliminary engineering will generate specifications for that construction and related acquistions; specifics for funding the next phase and for operational expense will also emerge concurrent with the preliminaries.
(No link is available to the Kenosha News story.)

23 February 2004

Kenosha-Racine-Milwaukee plans standing pat - With 90 percent of $4 million in preliminary engineering funds ready, key technical advisory committee members met in mid-February to chart a course for overseeing the next phase of the K-R-M commuter train project. In a summary of progress, Racine Journal Times reports designees for Milwaukee, Racine and Kenosha governments met to explore with Wisconsin DOT how to oversee the project's next phase. Journal Times likened the situation to a train without a conductor, without a single person to take charge. Uncertainty focuses presently on Milwaukee voters, who will choose a successor to K-R-M supporter John Norquist, who resigned as mayor early in January and turned over duties to interim mayor Marvin Pratt. (Mayor Pratt served well as Common Council president prior to shouldering city-wide responsibilities, and is one of two finalists vying for a full term in the April 6 election.) Milwaukee county executive Scott Walker also goes to voters on April 6 seeking a full term, so lack of someone to head the K-R-M project itself devolves decison-making to those elected officials.
Despite that uncertainty about leadership, the committee's chairman, Fred Patrie, remains optimistic about a project which his committee began studying in detail in conjuncton with SEWRPC five years ago. "It's our charge to find a way to make that happen," Mr. Patrie told the Journal Times in terms of keeping the K-R-M project moving forward.
Southeast Wisconsin Regional Planning Commisson is limited to long range planning, and is not empowered to manage construction or operations of any projects it recommends. Last August, the SEWRPC study of K-R-M trains was adopted by the technical advisory committee, and state and federal funds allocated for preliminary engineering of it.

Milwaukee County OKs regional study - County Board supervisors approved spending county funds for a SE Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission study of a multi-county transit agency. Milwaukee County Transit System is the largest transit operation in Wisconsin, and is a subsidiary corporation of the county government.

12 March 2004

High Speed trains for Midwest in meeting spotlight - Spring is here, because again a March session extolling 110-mph passenger trains for the Midwest is taking shape, with staunch rail advocate John Norquist prominent among featured speakers, which also includes Don Damron of the Ohio Rail Development Commisson, Scott Bernstein of Reconnecting America, and railroad industry insiders.
Midwest High Speed Rail Association will host a Saturday, March 20, gathering to brief boosters about Amtrak's funding plight, to highlight residential and workplace access by rail, and to describe the "Gary (Indiana)-Chicago airport intermodal center." Like a Wisconsin DOT project to construct a Hiawatha Service station adjoining Milwaukee's Gen. Mitchell International Airport, Gary intends to emulate common practice in other countries, which integrate railroad, air and highway travel modes at "intermodal centers" where travelers conveniently change among buses, airlines and trains. (Intermodal travel and infrastructure encouraging it have been official policy of the United States since 1991, and the lengthy attainment interval illustrates the enduring nature of transportation investment by both private and public sectors.)
Congress for a New Urbanism president John Norquist will be the featured speaker after lunch. Mr. Norquist brings an array of credentials to advocacy for improved train services, as former mayor of Milwaukee, as a celebrated member of the Amtrak Reform Council, as leading proponent with then-Gov. Tommy Thompson for amending the Wisconsin constitution to fund railroad projects, and determined sponsor of Hiawatha Service trains linking Milwaukee and Chicago on Amtrak's CP Rail track. (April, 2004 marks the twelfth anniversary of Wisconsin's landmark expansion of state funding authority which voters adopted by a 57 percent margin statewide. Wisconsin DOT participation in highway, harbor and airport improvements was extended to railroad improvements by the amendment, which has primarily been exercised to benefit freight movement.) Mr. Norquist's focus will highlight "prospects for federal railroad infrastructure funding," according to the event's advance information.
Advance registration costs $20 and may be accomplished online or as described at the Web site.
Midwest High Speed Rail Association offers current information throughout the year at its Web site.
A regional meeting of National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP) will precede the day's speakers.

Fares can't cover expenses, shouldn't - A booklet published by Columbia University professor Elliot Sclar declares politics rather than realistic policy cause demands for certain forms of American transportation to pay all expenses from fares, according to Friends of Amtrak news. In particular, the nagging insistence that Amtrak collect enough from its passengers to cover all operating and capital costs earns discredit from Prof. Sclar in "Amtrak Privatization: The Route To Failure," in which he points out that every form of American travel benefits from government aid. A June, 2003 news release reproduced on this site details Prof Sclar's concern then for under-funding Amtrak.
Congress presently has a six-year transporation bill, S-1072 called "SAFE-TEA", awaiting Senate consideration, and adequate Amtrak funding remains in serious jeopardy.
Economic Policy Institute sells the booklet at its Web site,
Prof. Sclar is a research associate at the Economic Policy Institute and Professor of Urban Planning and Public Affairs at Columbia University, and author of other books on efficient use of public funds.

March 2004

K-R-M proponents present update - Speaking for the third time in four years to Kiwanians meeting weekly in Racine, SEWRPC advisory commitee chairman Fred Patrie summarized events of the past year at a mid-March lunch hour. Most prominently, shoreline municipalities north and south of Racine joined with it, in August of 2003, in endorsing the regional planner recommendation to markedly improve 32 miles of Union Pacific track in the Kenosha-Racine-Milwaukee corridor, and to purchase coaches and locomotives compatible with existing Metra trains. Kenosha, Racine and Milwaukee county governments also adopted the recommendation which emerged from the WISERIDE study funded by principal cities and counties.
The luncheon session concluded with honors presented by Mr. Patrie, director of public works for Kenosha County on behalf of County Executive Allan Kehl, an enthusiastic K-R-M supporter, to former Racine mayor N. Owen Davies and to Cudahy mayor Ray Glowacki, who will retire in April from public office. More details about these outstanding citizens and career public servants, and about the proclamations issued by Mr. Kehl to honor them is presented at another page.
KenRail has been honored to co-operate with all these public servants, each one dedicated and confirmed in their dedication by constituents again and again. As a small, often-impromptu group, KenRail is privileged to present a slight resume of them and their dedicated efforts for their respective constituencies.

4 April 2004

NARP Region 7 meets, MWHSRC hosts at Chicago - Taking full advantage of converging tracks which have positioned Chicago at the hub of American railroading for more than a century, National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP) and its Illinois allies (IllARP) invited members and non-members to a March 20 session which began as Wisconsin ARP members (photo at left) were prominent among the few entrusted with tallying votes for Region 7 officers. Speakers assembled by Midwest High Speed Rail Coalition (MWHSRC) spoke throughout the day about urban, commuter (suburban) and intercity rail improvements -- limitations on them, and need for more improvements. After lunch John Norquist, recently retired mayor of Milwaukee and currently president of Congress for New Urbanism, emphasized the interplay among several key facets of urban and metropolitan growth with transportation, and continued the day's theme: the vital role trains take in the blend of modes which together offer "seamless" travel in most G-7 nations. More complete coverage of the MWHSRC presentations starts from here.

13 April 2004

Public opinion supports transit, use rises sharply - American Public Transportation Association released a summary to news media in March of poll results collected in February, and the emphasis is clear: public transportation enjoys overwhelming popular support. For example:

In a separate fact sheet recapping growth in transit during past years, APTA says use of public transit – buses, commuter trains, "light- and heavy-rail" urban trains, etc. – grew by 22 percent in the past six years as an accelerating continuaton of steady 6.4 percent growth 1990-2000.
View the APTA summary of its February poll by clicking here, and its fact sheet by clicking here.

25 May 2004

New Sturtevant station back on track - After years of negotiation and adaptation, CP Rail and village of Sturtevant took a major step to overcome legal obstacles delaying constrction of a new station for Amtrak Hiawatha Service passengers. Sturtevant contributes nearly ten percent of Hiawatha Service ridership, about 41,000 of the 433,000 using Amtrak's Milwaukee-Chicago trains in 2003.
In 1998, then-Gov. Tommy Thompson pledged a new station for Sturtevant during an annual visit of state officals to a region apart from the state capital. Subsequently, planning bogged to a standstll as concerns for pedestrians, who at the present station must cross both CP Rail tracks at some hazard, became the central issue the village and railrod could not resolve. Once the parties agreed that a better route for pedestrians was essential, costs for implementing a "grade separation" became a sticking point. Later, other costs for access across the right of way, such as for liability insurance, required negotiation and in mid-May the village board endorsed an above-track design for the pedestrian crossing.
Complete agreement on all specifics remains for a future date, but now in the near future rather than at some undefined date, as has been the case since 1998.

June 2004

Metra Family Fares expanded - Norheast Illinois commuter train operator Metra now offers its Family Fare combination fare allowing as many as three children under 12 years of age to ride free with a fare-paying adult. According to Metra, Family Fares are available "during the week through Labor Day. Family Fares allow as many as three children under 12 years of age to ride free with a fare-paying adult. The program is available on any Metra train arriving in downtown Chicago after 9:30 a.m. Monday through Friday and all trains on the weekend." Visit this Metra page for Family Fares details and its separate Weekend Pass reduced fare.
Metra Northline trains serve Kenosha, and numerous local activities are convenient to the Metra station adjoining Kenosha Transit streetcars, which circulate daily through award-winning Harborpark and past Kenosha's harbor, where bike and walking paths offer more opportunity for exercise and relaxation. Kenosha Public Museum anchors the public space overlooking Lake Michigan at the eastern part of Harborpark.

17 July 2004

Amtrak funding teeters - Thanks to National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP) and other advocates, many of them unfunded volunteers like Friends of Amtrak, broad-based popular support for a nationwide system for travel by passenger train regularly reaches the ears of elected officials in Congress.
At mid-July with quadrennial nominating conventions set for Democrats, then Republicans, those elected officials are still grappling with hard choices under tight fiscal conditions of the past three years. And transportation budgeting confronts among the toughest of choices, as the nation's highways, airports, airlines, waterways, barge lines, trucking companies, bus companies and railroads battle to avoid or erase red ink from balance sheets.
NARP has monitored support for a 'Dear Colleague' letter circulating in the Senate which urges funding Amtrak at its requested $1.798 billion, considerably above the present intentions of the Transportation committee, Dept. of Transportation and Office of Management and Budget. (OMB is the White House budget ombudsman.) Both Senator Kohl and Senator Feingold of Wisconsin are among thirty-nine signers of the letter, which NARP identifies at this page. The letter is also reproduced, citing Amtrak CEO David Gunn's "proven track record of controlling expenses and improving the company's operations" as sufficient basis for honoring his funding request. Mr. Gunn returned from retirement in May, 2002 to lead Amtrak after righting New York and Toronto transit systems, among other career achievements.

Hiawatha Service grabs headlines - Amtrak and Wisconsin DOT intend to strengthen the availability of superlative train service operated as Hiawatha Service, according to press conferences and a WisDOT news release. On June 11, Amtrak CEO David Gunn accompanied Gov. Jim Doyle calling attention to the need for continuing Amtrak operations in Wisconsin as they jointly honored the 75th anniversary of the Empire Builder during its Milwaukee stop enroute to Minnesota and the Pacific Northwest. Two weeks later, WisDOT held an official ground-breaking as it began construction of platforms, an access road and modest parking for Amtrak Hiawatha passengers transferring to and from airline flights at General Mitchell Intl. Airport (GMIA). A day later, WisDOT Sec. Frank Busalacchi proclaimed in Washingotn D.C. his full support for extending Hiawatha Service from its present Chicago-Milwaukee route to Madison, the state's capital.
Both the GMIA stop and service extension to Madison have been sought for years. In 1994, Amtrak completed a corridor study of Hiawatha Service, and declared its preference for a stop near GMIA – placing higher priority on it than existing stops at Sturtevant and Glenview, IL. In 1999, former WisDOT secreatry Ron Fiedler took a leading advocacy role in support for extending Amtrak to Madison as one key facet of the larger Midwest Regional Rail Initiative proposal for 110-mph trains operating through Wisconsin to Chicago and the Twin Cities of Minnesota. MWRRI envisoned a nine-state array of corridors for fast trains operating several times daily, but only routes to Detroit and to St. Louis from Chicago are presently suited for fast trains.
Further investing in Wisconsin train services under this Democratic governor continues the bipartisan support for proposals advanced during the sixteen years of Republicans in the governor's office, most notably Gov. Tommy Thompson, who also served as chairman of the Amtrak board of directors. K-R-M commuter trains have similarly transcended factional boundaries, as mayors and county executives of varied viewpoints joined in sponsoring two studies leading to the SEWRPC adoption of a detailed plan in August, 2003.
Extending Hiawatha Service operations from Milwaukee to Madison is one of Amtrak's projections for strategic capital investment over the next five years. An Adobe Acrobat file describing the overall FY 2005-2009 business plan and its potential Wisconsin segments is downloadable from an Amtrak web page by clicking here. Wisconsin DOT will partner with other Midwest states and Amtrak to accomplish the plan.

21 July 2004

Governor Doyle joins a dozen guvs urging full Amtrak funding - As Congress gaveled into House and Senate sessions for their last summer week before adjourning for Democratic and Republican conventions, a second letter urging full Amtrak funding at $1.798 billion, starting October 1 continues accumulating support among governors. Among thirteen state governors formally supporting Amtrak CEO David Gunn is Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle. Since taking office, Gov. Doyle has steadily integrated transportation planning under the keen eye and guiding hand of WisDOT Sec. Frank Busalacchi, injecting impetus to rail service projects, once ignored or discouraged, which complement Wisconisn's highway and air travel infrastructure.
One example of resumed Wisconsin support for train commuting and intercity travel is abuilding on Milwaukee's southwest side, on the perimeter of its Gen. Mitchell International Airport, where Gov. Doyle led ground-breaking in late June on construction of a new stop for Amtrak Hiawathas (see item below: "Hiawatha Service grabs headlines"). Senator Herb Kohl accompanied the governor and was instrumental in assuring project funding.
National Assoc'n of Railroad Passengers has posted the full text of the governors letter and signators to it.

August 4

Kenosha's biggest annual lakefront event - Ready to accommodate another influx by thousands of day-trippers to its harbor, its Kenosha Public Museum and nearby Pike River Rendezvous re-enactment activities in conjunction with Days of Discovery, city of Kenosha and its local bus and streetcar services are extending hours of streetcar operation and scheduling shuttle buses to Simmons Island activities complementing the visit by tall sailing ships. Metra train and Wisconsin Coach regional bus schedules are unchanged.
Click here for the KenRail complimentary summary of public transit alternatives available to reach the Days of Discovery location at Kenosha harbor, Wednesday, Aug. 4 through Sunday, Aug. 8.

20 August 2004

Amtrak supporters in Senate majority - Recent co-signers (as of Aug. 20) to a 'Dear Colleague' letter to the Appropriations committee raise to 51 the number endorsing full Amtrak funding for Fiscal Year 2005, NARP reports. FY 2005 starts Oct. 1, and conferees will negotiate differences between House and Senate appropriation levels.
National Assoc'n of Railroad Passengers (NARP) points out at its specific page monitorring the letter's progress that co-signers are in addition to four addressees, who are believed willing to support Amtrak's full requested funding.
Amtrak has been budgeted at $800 million for FY 2005 by the House of Representatives, plus $100 million which must be applied for repayment of a loan several years ago during a previous Amtrak funding crisis. Amtrak sought $1.8 billion for FY2005, twice the amount House appropriators proposed.

September 2004

Passengers getting more, newer stations - As Racine BUS riders enjoy a new hub and its adjoining train station undergoes architectural scrutiny in preparation for seeking construction bids on its renovation for planned use by K-R-M/Metra commuter trains, four other southeast Wisconsin train passenger projects are in varying stages of fulfillment:

1 Oct 2004

New station for Hiawathas voted - A long and winding road trudged relentlessly has now led village of Sturtevant to approve arrangements with CP Rail to construct a pedestrian overpass for Amtrak Hiawatha passengers at the new location, one mile north of the present Sturtevant stop. The existing station, considered for demolition in the early 1990s, once was the CTC control point at the junction of the Southwest route to Beloit and Savannah with the Chicago-Milwaukee mainline, and was staffed 24/7. For more than ten years it has served simply as shelter for Hiawatha riders and has been under-maintained for more than twice as long. Approval of an overpass clears the way for shifting Amtrak riders from the old station to a modern location with more parking and easier access from state and Interstate highways.
Village of Sturtevant took an interest in preventing demolition of the old station in 1993, and has more recently taken the lead role in relocating the stop for Hiawathas to Renaissance Business Park, adjoining state Highway 20, the principal thoroughfare connecting city of Racine with I-94. Unlike commuter trains planned for the Kenosha-Racine-Milwaukee corridor nearest Lake Michigan, Hiawathas compete directly with commuters using I-94, making few stops to reach Milwaukee and Chicago quickly.
According to a news story published Sept. 29, a slim majority supported the project's final facet, another key difference from K-R-M support, which spans business, environmental, and civic service organizations, especially in nearby Racine. Sturtevant administrator Steven Jansen was crucial to assembling that majority, which now has approved a much-needed addition to the Hiawatha Serivce corridor at a new location, far better matched to the high service standard Amtrak strives to deliver to all its customers.

15 November 2004

Wisconsin DOT moves ahead on long range plan - Continuing outreach to the travelers of Wisconsin's transportation systems, WisDOT has established Web pages highlighting its Connections 2030 program for statewide comment and broad dissemination of progress reports. Presently available information includes WisDOT summaries and full reports on activities dating back to 2002, and WisDOT goals for remaining stages of the Connections 2030 plan development.
According to a page for Connections 2030, a new set of priorities will govern development of Connections 2030, differing "from WisDOT's previous planning efforts ... [by making] Connections 2030 ... a policy-based plan." For the past ten years or so, WisDOT has set its project sights according projected needs, such as its Translinks 21 plan development.
The new process seems comparable to plan development utilized in southeast Wisconsin, such as by SEWRPC for evaluating feasibility of commuter trains through established neighborhoods and districts near Lake Michigan, followed by detailed study of Kenosha-Racine-Milwaukee commuter trains which completed in 2003 with formal recommendation to proceed with the plan to a preliminary engineering stage. SEWPRC and its WISERIDE study invested considerable attention in public involvement, and the result was widespread acceptance among the general public for the K-R-M train project
Connections 2030 anticipates completion of its plan formulation in Spring, 2006.

5 December 2004

An airport stop for Hiawathas sprouts - Wisconsin DOT has progress on its mind, as long-sought improvements to the downtown Milwaukee station are now accompanied by construction eight miles south, on the west boundary of Milwaukee County's airport, busiest in the state. Continuing conversion of American airports to convenient "inter-modal" travel among airlines, trains, buses and personal vehicles became a national goal with enactment of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Act of 1991. Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) trains at O'Hare and Midway airports and Hiawatha light rail trains most recently at Minneapolis-St. Paul airport are typical, but differ in planning for them. O'Hare access for CTA was foreseen during construction of its Northwest Expressway more than 40 years ago, within the median of the traffic artery renamed in honor of assassinated President John F. Kennedy. At the Milwaukee airport, Amtrak has favored addition of a stop for its Milwaukee-Chicago Hiawatha Service trains for years, and now anticipates fulfillment of that goal with specific departure times for its 14 Monday-Saturday trains (12 trains, Sundays and holidays) in the November 1 timetable. A timetable note advises actual service will "begin on a date to be announced" at the Amtrak Web site, No date has yet been announced.
WisDOT also reports its interest in the General Mitchell International Airport station for Amtrak Hiawathas at a web page, and a KenRail page occasionally updates construction progress; click here for it.

16 December 2004

Racine mayor sparks debate - Never one to turn his back on a good thing for his city, Mayor Gary Becker, elected by Racine voters to his first term in 2003, has sparked widespread public debate about how to pay for the Kenosha-Racine-Milwaukee commuter trains which have been under study for the better part of ten years. A 1998 report described the idea as fully feasible, and a follow up study by the SouthEast Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission, dubbed WISERIDE, was endorsed in August, 2003 by all members of the technical committee advising SEWRPC, except Wisconsin DOT which favored a local or regional approach rather than any state agency oversight.
Mayor Becker's suggestion, published in Racine Journal Times on Dec. 14 under a bold headline and beside a gloomy photo of the Racine train station, proposes a penny-per-gallon tax on gasoline because he knows the project won't be a gift from anyone and "you've got to pay for a service," Becker said in the Journal Times article. "I think this is a critical project for the region to get done."
Reaction was swift and varied. Kenosha News editorialized in support for debating how to pay for the project, while reserving opinion about whether a gas tax is best among payment options. Journal Times offered several reader opinions under its "Debatable" feature. No one compared the penny-per-gallon tax to any pump price increase or decrease, which has ricocheted between $1.80 and $2.08 in recent months with not a single policymaker comment, with scarcely any editorial of concern.
Meanwhile, deliberations continue about how to begin the preliminary engineering phase of the K-R-M project, which has yet to designate a single agent to manage its progress.

20 December 2004

Metra opens its doors at Family Fare rates - A press release from northeast Illinois Metra announces Family Fare will permit up to three children (age 12 and under) to accompany a fare-paying adult every day from Monday, Dec. 20, through Friday, Dec. 31.
Metra schedules for the remainder of 2004 are somewhat special for both Christmas Eve and New Years Eve, and Christmas Day and New Years Day are not typical schedules. Visit Metra site through this link or call Metra at 1-312/322-6777 for specific information.

21 December 2004

Local editorials back Racine mayor's initiative - Choosing its most widely read edition of the week for declaring editorial support, the Sunday Journal Times of Racine endorsed Mayor Becker's initiative to establish a penny-per-gallon tax on gasoline as a way to pay for K-R-M commuter trains, which his city has sought since 1994. Click here to read our reprint of it.
Earlier, Kenosha News also endorsed the public debate sparked by Mayor Becker.
Mayor Tom Barrett of Milwaukee and Milwaukee county executive Scott Walker have voiced support for the Kenosha-Racine-Milwaukee commuter train project, but have not yet offered explcit support for any form of tax dedicated to it or to regional transit. County Exec Walker regards it as a project deserving more state involvement, according to published accounts.

26 December 2004

K-R-M commuter trains gather more support) - Delivering a long-awaited pledge of broadly-based Milwaukee support for lakeshore commuter trains, a Dec. 22 gathering of key community leaders, including prominent business executives and elected supporters of K-R-M commuter trains, emerged from a breakfast meeting reported by Milwaukee Journal Sentinel united in their dedication to implementing the K-R-M project already thoroughly studied and resoundingly endorsed by SEWRPC. "'There's a clear movement to go get it done,' said Bob Mariano, chief executive officer of Roundy's Inc.," according to Journal Sentinel's Dec. 23 account.
Fred Patrie, director of Kenosha county public works and chairman of the SEWRPC technical committee advising staff on K-R-M planning attended the closed door session and spoke enthusiastically to Kenosha News about the meeting. Kenosha News does not post its articles online.
Both Mayor Antaramian, of Kenosha, and Kenosha County Executive Allan Kehl have consistently supported extension of commuter train service in the 33-mile K-R-M corridor, which adjoins the 52-mile Chicago-Kenosha corridor already served by some Metra Northline trains. County Executive Kehl took a prominent role, as noted here previously, in the months after SEWRPC approval of the detailed study and adoption of K-R-M commuter trains as a worthy regional project.
Mayor Gary Becker, of Racine, has built upon his forthright support for K-R-M trains with a preliminary suggestion that a penny-per-gallon gas tax help pay for the new commuting operation, which will link existing neighborhoods and districts of southeast Wisconsin's most well-established cities. SEWRPC endorsed the proposed project four months after Mayor Becker took office in 2003.

28 December 2004

Delays constructing Wisconsin train projects become costly - Wait for another further study or better plan, and pay the price. A Journal Sentinel story told of rising costs for construction of train-related projects in the Badger state, notably the six-year old plan to link major Midwest cities through a Chicago hub using 110-mph passenger trains. Originally titled the Midwest Regional Rail Initiative, the system (which acquired MWRRS as its unpronounceable abbreviation) spanning nine states will emulate European and Japanese reliance on trains for distances up to 350 miles, complementing air travel.
Costs for the stations for waiting passengers is among the climbing cost factors, Journal Sentinel reports, with an entirely new station complex, complete with parking and access roads, adjoining Gen. Mitchell International Airport now pegged at more than $6 million, which WisDOT channels from federal and state sources. A first estimate for constructing a station at Sturtevant for less than $1 million vanished in a cloud of blue smoke once a grade-separated pedestrian crossing became integral to the construction plan, straining local resources and causing years of delay. Current renovation of the Milwaukee train station, presently used only by Amtrak, already is priced at $4 million, Journal Sentinel says.
Early in November, 2004, another Journal Sentinel story reported 63 percent of Wisconsin residents replying to a WisDOT poll favored 110-mph trains in heavily-traveled corridors, such as Madison-Milwaukee-Chicago; addition of a Fond du Lac-Appleton-Green Bay extensioin has since been proposed. Prior to late December update to cost estimates, the original $4.2 billion for the nine-state plan was cited.

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