Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Budget Compromise Disses Rail

It's telling that the compromised proposed state budget omitted funding for the Kenosha-Racine-Milwaukee (KRM) commuter rail project.

The Daily Reporter offers good background, here.

WisPolitics reports that a move by State Rep. Jim Kreuser, (D-Kenosha) to restore the project to the draft budget in the conference committee was defeated in a party line vote, 4-4, with all Democrats supporting it and all Republicans opposed.

One vote against came from Republican Senate leader Scott Fitzgerald, (R-Juneau), whose district represents a portion of Waukesha County in southeastern Wisconsin.

The same region that would have been the primary beneficiary of the KRM.

So much for regional cooperation, and Republicans who allegedly support economic development and job growth that would occur along the KRM's three-county regional corridor.

Once again, rail falls away as a priority in our highway-happy state, where $23 million in state funding is still committed for an interchange in Western Waukesha County to service a cancelled upscale shopping mall at Pabst Farms.

So a special-interest shopping destination that may or may not get built, in some incarnation of stores or businesses still remains funded - - and got into planners' hands out of sequence in the larger scheme of $6.5 billion in regional highway "improvements"and outright added-lane expansion.

But a regional rail system that has taken years to get on track to serve commuters in three counties that would spur sustainable development and help get congestion and air pollution off the I-94 corridor - - well, that can wait for another budget cycle.

There's only word for this continual distortion, this one-dimensional addiction to highway spending in a region where the air quality fails to meet clean air standards, and job development is a widely-acknowledged problem.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This short sighted vote on KRM is yet another example of how Wisconsin trashes the trains and ruins the rails. Notice how these conference committee members, such as Mike Huebsch, are out in rural areas where driving is not a problem, other than the cost of it.

The vote on this legislation represents the latest in a long term history of trashing the trains and ripping up the rails extends back many years to the removal of commuter service to Lake Geneva, Williams Bay and Walworth to Chicago, a region with a high tourism demand from Chicago and a higher aggregate population and potential demand than Harvard, Illinois, which retained its rail service. A beautiful historic train station in Lake Geneva on the national register of historic places was torn up in the predawn hours on the weekend to drive a nail into the coffin. The parochial concerns of Wisconsin politicians ensured that cross-border cooperation with Illinois would never happen, such as joining the RTA in the Chicago collar counties, which might have saved our rail service and prevented Lake Geneva from becoming a car clusterfuck thanks to the lack of alternatives. Similarly we allowed the lakeside county rail service to die (at least Amtrak fills some of that demand there with the Hiawatha). I'd bet these yahoo politicians never have to deal with the congestion and torture of rush hour traffic in the Chicago suburbs. They should be sentenced to drive the Edens Expressway at 4:30 every day. They don't care.

GOP (greedy oil party) hypocrite politicians never met a highway lobby, unsustainable development project or oil subsidy they didn't like, especially the reactionary Assembly Republicans in Wisconsin, who would do well to go to Europe and see what real rail service is like, or at least go south of the border and ride Metra. Or talk to their somewhat more enlightened colleagues in Illinois, such as Congressman Mark Kirk, who supports trains and even met with Metra commuters before the election, or with Paul Weyrich, who constantly extols the virtues of rail. I implore them to try to beat the train by driving to downtown Chicago from Harvard, IL. You can't do it.

Or do they want us to be locked into an expensive and wasteful transit mode that requires extensive out of pocket outlays and externalities?