Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Breaking News: Waukesha Wants Rail Line

OK, radio talk show squawkers and rail phobics, you haven't read that headline...but trust me, you will.

Two trips by car in the last ten days from Milwaukee to Madison, and I've made hundreds of these in the years I've lived in both cities, convinces me again that Waukesha County motorists will demand commuter rail connections, and sooner rather than later.

It's not just the housing that is filling in the farmland along the corridor, or the traffic (note to the State Patrol and county mounties: you could fill your budget holes with aggressive speed enforcement between Sunny Slope Rd. and the east side of Madison, as the left lane is a non-stop mini-Autobahn ribbon of 80+ mph violators, including the big rigs).

Waukesha legislators pressured Gov. Jim Doyle to move forward the the freeway expansion schedule for Zoo Interchange widening - - a project that will make the Marquette Interchange reconstruction look like a simple street repaving by comparison.

Western Waukesha County's stretch of I-94 is scheduled for a separate dose of widening, which means fast-growing Waukesha County will have a good chunk of a generation of orange barrels, lane and ramp closings and all the additional inconveniences that comes with their share of a $6.5 billion project.

Folks out west will look to their suburban neighbors to the south and begin demanding commuter rail similar to the Kenosha-Racine-Milwaukee (KRM) line that appears to moving towards construction.

The ironies are that Waukesha County all the way to Oconomowoc used tbe served by the high-speed Interurban rail line which hit 110 mph on its run to Chicago, and that Waukesha killed a light rail plan back in the 90's that would have, in its earliest plans, entered Waukesha County, offering what would have been a respite for some commuters in the eastern part of the county.

And would have reintroduced many people to the rail option, paving the way, so to speak, for a genuinely balanced transportation system regionally that would have melded light rail, commuter trains and highways.

I'm still predicting a push for commuter rail from the west, and if it were to be part of a plan that included rail transit in the urban Milwaukee core, it'd be worth supporting.

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