Friday, August 23, 2019

Vos, Walker blocked commuter rail in congested, deadly I-94 corridor

5:45 p.m. Update: A Friday afternoon crash has caused a 2.5 hour delay in the zone. 

Let's continue to highlight what happens when right-wing WI GOP pols say 'no' to passenger rail, options.

* Earlier Friday morning I posted a reminder that Walker intentionally killed a federally-paid Amtrak connection between our state's two largest cities, Madison and Milwaukee.

I suggested that the absence of an Amtrak link probably didn't help make Madison, despite all its amenities, a super-attractive location to house visitors and delegates attending the Democratic National Convention in downtown Milwaukee.

Where events will take place within walking distance of the downtown Amtrak station.

And which would have been itself better connected by separate streetcar and light rail services had GOP pols for decades, with partisan and talk radio support, not slowed or blocked those options, too.
Had plans unfolded on schedule, the starter light rail, with an estimated 21,000 riders on weekdays, would have opened in 2006 and run about 10 miles from the Third Ward to Summerfest, downtown, Miller Park, the Milwaukee County Zoo and the County Grounds. Talk about a missed opportunity
* Similarly, I want to post a reminder that Walker and Robin Vos, the anti-transit GOP Assembly Speaker, also killed planning for a non-Amtrak commuter train line using equipment similar to the Chicagoland's METRA - -

20110530 Metra.JPG

for the K-R-M - - Kenosha-Racine-Milwaukee local service - - which would have made 15 round trip runs daily to as many as 33 stops - - as an alternate to driving on I-94 - - per this regional planning document:
It will include stations for each of the communities identified in the previous phase of the KRM study including Kenosha, Somers, Racine, Caledonia, Oak Creek, South Milwaukee, Cudahy/St. Francis, South Side Milwaukee, and Downtown Milwaukee.
In other words, parallel to the same stretch of highway being 'upgraded' at Vos and Walker's behest to serve the road-builders and perhaps Foxconn's whatever/whenever - - the same stretch of highway where there have been more than 1,000 vehicle crashes in just over a year due to nightmarish congestion and lane-crowding, and other planning deficits:
Major props to the Racine Journal Times for digging our the deeper data: that underscores that investigative need, given how badly Wisconsin officials botched its planning and continuing oversight:
Crashes spike in I-94 work zone, traffic stops 'unsafe for everyone involved'
The project has turned an 18-mile, three-county-spanning stretch of I-94 into a perilous cacophony of orange barrels and lane shifts in which more than 1,000 crashes have occurred and over 200 people have been injured in just over a year, a Journal Times investigation has found.
Vos pushed hard for the fast-tracked I-94 project.

He's also described as most responsible for blocking the K-R-M and similar statewide regional transit authorities.
...state Rep. Robin Vos (R-Rochester), the KRM's most powerful opponent, pushed through the measure to kill the RTA, leaving no one to fund or run the KRM. 
* Yeah, this is same duo I wrote about in 2017:
Vos' long transit blockade does not help Racine's Foxconn future  
...right-wing GOP WI Governor Scott Walker's foolish blockade of an Amtrak extension from SE Wisconsin to Madison and the rest of Midwestern inter-city rail expansion removed development-based rail connections which would have fed potential employment for high-tech Foxconn should it build a mega-factory in Racine County:
Right-wing GOP WI Governor and shallow ideologue Scott Walker for the narrowest of partisan and self-serving political motives wiped out the federally-funded Hiawatha Amtrak connection between Madison and Milwaukee and south through Racine County to Chicago.
I also wrote last week that right-wing and fellow Walkerite transit foe GOP Assembly Speaker Robin Vos was using the possible Foxconn project's trucking needs to press Walker to fund a faster completion of I-94 re-construction and expansion through Racine County which is Vos' home base and the heavily-rumored site for the Foxconn factory.

But as I documented Walker's short-sighted blockade of the Amtrak extension, let's also document Vos's one-note opposition to transit which can bring workers more easily to their jobs - - especially if they do not have cars or do not care to spend hours everyday on congested highways or potholed roads on what are rated America's second-worst state roads.

The record shows that:

* Vos got the 2011 legislature to ban regional transit authorities, (RTAs), a move, by the way,  which has effectively blocked the construction of a commuter rail line (the KRM), linking Kenosha, Racine (Vos' home county) and Milwaukee counties, thus denying his own constituents rail services that also were to include an easy transfer to Chicago's METRA commuter service.

The KRM would have been a great selling point to Foxconn: 
*  Remember also that every time a transit plan lands on the table, Republicans like Walker and Vos kill it by saying it's too expensive - - but show them plans for news lanes and suddenly money is no object.  

Walker began pulling highway comedy from other projects to get the Foxconn road-building binge started, and as I reminded readers before, made the motion to begin the entire SE WI 'freeway' [sic] multi-billion binge without any dedicated financing in hand and threw in an extra $750 million dollop for good measure:

Walker motion in 2003 tripped off SE highway overspending
The Wisconsin Legislature is grappling with a state highway budget unsustainably bloated by reckless borrowing and overspending on the so-called SE 'free'way system - - a problem that has helped stall the entire state budget process while preposterous presidential hopeful Scott Walker keeps skipping out to campaign from Iowa to New Hampshire and beyond.
So it's important to remember that Walker - - as Milwaukee County Executive - - played a key role in 2003 on a SE regional planning commission advisory committee which voted, without a companion financing plan, to recommend to state highway planners that Wisconsin add to the SE 'freeway' system the maximum number of new lanes among the alternatives considered - - 127 miles of lanes instead of 108 - - in what ultimately became a rail-free $6.4 billion package.
Walker's motion added an estimated $750 million to the ultimate price tag and also increased the number of structures and land removed from the tax base. 
As I said, these many FUBAR transportation disconnects were intentional, ideologically-driven decisions, and the negative consequences, like the colliding vehicles on I-94, keep piling up. 

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