Saturday, October 20, 2007

KRM is (thankfully) dead but that doesn't mean something can't be done

The state budget deal brokered Friday excludes the Kenosha-Racine-Milwaukee rail link. Some day KRM is dead. But maybe it just needs to be reinvented as a more cost effective plan.

KRM would have extended commuter rail north from Kenosha on the Union Pacific tracks. That would have been a great plan three decades ago but isn's such a good idea now. Times have changed and there's an intermediate solution: build the promised Kenosha Amtrak station.

How soon we forget. One of the many promises the owner of the Dairyland Greyhound Park made was to build an Amtrak station. It never happened.

15 years later the poobahs wantedd to spend big bucks to build a new rail line on the Union Pacific (Chicago and North Western) tracks north to Milwaukee. That line was double tracked north of Kenosha until Amtrak rolled out in 1971 and the North Western cut out northbound passenger service.

The late Congressman Les Aspin wisely proposed that Amtrak follow the lakeshore on the North Western tracks but that idea never went anywhere. Instead, Amtrak kept rolling along on the 79 mph Milwaukee Road right of way into and out of Milwaukee.

Since that time, however, two new Amtrak stations have opened in the last couple years: Sturtevant and Mitchell Field. Thus it only makes sense that Kenosha finally get its Amtrak station -- and the Dairyland people be held to their promise to build it. That way we can forget this silly KRM mess and the taxpayers can save a huge bundle. All we need to do is extend city bus lines in Kenosha and Racine to reach Amtrak and we have a solution.

Of course, it's a simple and cost effective solution. Wisconsin already pays to subsidize Amtrak's Hiawatha service between Milwaukee and Chicago. Only makes sense to take advantage of what we're now funding.

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