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A Partial History of K-R-M

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K-R-M: KenRail postings along the way, 1999-2005

"[M]y question is what is the next development that will increase the sophistication of Wisconsin's infrastructure?"

"The futurist Alvin Toffler spoke at one of our company conferences a number of years ago. He said something that I've always remembered. He said, 'The concept of capital is changing. Do you care if Microsoft has factories or offices? No, you care if it has ideas.' "

"For those of us in business, I think the concept of infrastructure is changing in a similar way."

"My company believes southeastern Wisconsin needs a commuter rail that goes, not just from Chicago to Kenosha, but on to Racine and Milwaukee."

 — collected excerpts from speech by S.C. Johnson Co. Sr. V.P. Jane Hutterly, speaking at Waukesha; August, 2004

"Wisconsin is positioned to take advantage of a critical economic development tool that will link the Kenosha-Racine-Milwaukee corridor with metropolitan Chicago." -- from Milwaukee Journal Sentinel commentary, Dec. 17, 2006, by chief corporate officers in each major city:
 Jockey International of Kenosha | Modine Manufacturing of Racine | Roundy's Foods of Milwaukee.

"I firmly believe that great cities have great transit systems." -- SE Wisc. RTA Chairman Karl Ostby speaking in May, 2007 to Racine County Economic Development Corp. award dinner.Quoted by Racine Journal Times

"[U]nemployed [persons in Racine] are our families, neighbors, people we go to church with. They are taxpayers and people who purchase goods and services, which make our local economy grow. We believe that this is why the RTA has garnered the broadest coalition for any purpose that Racine and the region has ever seen." -- excerpt from Racine Transit Task Force commentary, published 2 June 2009, Racine Journal Times

Kenosha-Racine-Milwaukee commuter train ambitions

Racine bus center adjoins future K-R-M track - Belle Urban System buses collect at a state of the art transit hub for local and regional buses, an intermodal adjunct to planned Kenosha-Racine-Milwaukee commuter trains. Check our page about the B.U.S. hub and adjoining station, a busy C&NW passenger palace, 1902-1971, and planned KRM station via this link.

Editorials support K-R-M commuter train proposal, polls favor all trains - Area newspaper editorials have consistently supported Kenosha-Racine-Milwaukee commuter trains. Random polls of public opinion also consistently show trains are popular alternativees to driving and flying over moderate distances. Read more about public opinion polls and those editorial endorsements at this page.

A commuter rail feasibility study in 1998 by SE Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission concluded that a 33-mile Kenosha-Racine-Milwaukee corridor near Lake Michigan, somewhat distant from Interstate 94, could benefit from improved north-south public travel infrastructure. To inform interested commentators about differences among various modes, or types, of rail operations used for travel, SEWRPC accompanied its 1998 study summary with a brief definition of several modes and a table of salient rail mode traits.

WISERIDE - Wisconsin DOT and the seven county planning commission for SE Wisconsin have closely examined prospects for adding commuter train service for lakeshore communities. A detailed planning study commissioned by SE Wisc. RPC and WisDOT is complete; has been presented at public hearings, where comment was overwhelmingly favorable, by business groups, by environmental advocates, by workday commuters seeking a better way to and from jobs; and is now published as the SEWRPC final recommendation to WisDOT and affected communities and local governments in the Kenosha-Racine-Milwaukee corridor. Its "SEWRPC Community Assistance Planning Report No. 276" is referenced at the WISERIDE website. Transportation Development Association of Wisconsin also endorses commuter trains for southeast Wisconsin and for the Madison area, in its Issue Paper #6 available for download.
Uncertainty about how to fund K-R-M has been a constant, but not prominent, issue among many that SEWRPC dealt with in the course of the WISRIDE study. In 2000, a Kenosha News columnist broached the prospect of using a local tax for K-R-M commuter trains, as was enacted to fund Miller Park. KenRail webmaster Norman Siler replied in an opinion column published by Kenosha News in October, 2000, and it's posted here.

Smart choices, less traffic - Sierra Club has recommended on its national agenda the K-R-M commuter train proposal. Its website urges extension of Metra-type train service along the lakeshore corridor which will “serve more than 5,000 daily riders and connect the densely populated, rapidly developing communities along the Wisconsin lakefront between Kenosha and Milwaukee.” View its three Wisconsin recommendations by clicking on our state at this Sierra Club web page.

Although news items were sometimes posted at this KenRail site in a news bloc on the home page, only entries from late 2005 to early 2010 were archived with dates. They are archived on this site for 2006 | 2007 | 2008 | 2009 | January, 2010

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July, 2011

K-R-M succumbs with statewide RTA termination

Kenosha-Racine-Milwaukee commuter train ambitions faded after March, 2010 when Kenosha legislator Rep. Peter Barca sought unsuccessfully to include fund-raising authority for its Southeastern Wisconsin RTA (SERTA) with other Regional Transit Agencies taking shape elsewheere in Wisconsin. Though the SERTA enjoyed corporate, envirtonmental, labor and civic organization support, legislators representing its cities and counties were not unanimously supportive. A few actively opposed it, for individual reasons. Consequently, the bipartisan support statewide for the RTA bill was unable to advance it in the closing, hectic hours of the Legislature session.

By the end of 2010, a much more ambitious train project was scrapped at the insistence of the governor-elect, putting K-R-M in shadowy uncertainty, its funding all arranged but for the local matching portion, of something less than 20-percent. Rejection of the more ambitious Milwaukee-Madison train project, which was fully funded without needing any local matching funds, boded ill for K-R-M gaining funding authority to tax for the local share.

Budget writing for the 2011-2013 biennium began in April, 2011 and proceeded with several public hearings at scattered locations statewide, but with less range of public comment than was typical of recent biennial budget cycles. When the final form and substance of the state's spending plan for the next 24 months reached the Legislature from the Joint Committee on Finance, it included specific language to terminate all tax authority for Regional Transit Agencies in the state of Wisconsin.

At its first monthly meeting under the new state biennial budget on Monday, July 25, the SERTA board met at its customary location, Gen. Mitchell International Airport, and acted to transfer away all funds under its control, then disbanded as required.

K-R-M's demise was reported by daily newspapers in each prinicipal city. Kenosha News in its Tuesday, July 26 news story, quoted SERTA board chairman Karl Ostby, a Kenosha banker, on dispersal of the funds totaling $21 million.

The entire K-R-M project was last estimated in 2009 to cost $233 million, more than 75-percent paid by FTA transit startup funding.

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