Rail service to link cities

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An SWRPC study advisory committee recently recommended extending the Chicago Metra rail after studying the costs and benefits of both a commuter rail and bus system, Yunker said.

The study committee concluded that “implementing the costs of commuter rail would be much greater than that of a commuter bus, but the benefits of commuter rail also outweigh those of a commuter bus,” Yunker said.

According to Yunker, SWRPC staff also recommended the procession of the plan after reviewing the study committee’s findings.

Metra supporters believe commuter rail would carry positive economic impacts for the entire area.

Rosemary Potter, executive director of Southeastern Wisconsin Coalition for Transit NOW, a non-profit organization aimed at connecting jobs with transportation, said commuter rail could help create a “regional economy” for Milwaukee, Racine, Kenosha and Chicago.

“Transit NOW is very pleased with the recommendation because we believe commuter rail will assist in creating a regional economy for the southern corridor,” Potter said. “I think that will give our economy a boost.”

Potter said Transit NOW believes most people would support commuter rail in Milwaukee.

“We had a very successful public hearing where we had several people say that they wanted commuter rail,” Potter said.

Yunker said while a concrete running schedule has not been made, the Metra would run seven round trips between Milwaukee, Racine, Kenosha and Chicago per day. Three round trips would run on weekends and holidays.

Potter said the Metra would arrive and depart from Milwaukee at the Amtrak station, 433 W. St. Paul Ave.

Local officials say they support the expansion of Metra.

Kenosha County Executive Allan Kehl said commuter rail could solve problems with the interstate system and traffic congestion.

Mayor John O. Norquist “definitely believes in commuter rail,” said Steve Filmanowicz, spokesman for the mayor. “He’s a supporter of the commuter rail and likes the idea of working with Racine and Kenosha.”

Filmanowicz said Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker has not been supportive of implementing commuter rail.

“Scott Walker has not been supportive,” Filmanowicz said. “(Mayor Norquist) has tried to convince him otherwise and he’s tried to change his mind.”

Walker could not be reached for comment.

“I think it’d be a huge boom,” said Racine Mayor Gary Becker. “I think it’s an important part of redeveloping Racine.”

Calling the southeastern region of Wisconsin the state’s “economic engine,” Becker said the economic effects of extending Metra would not only benefit Kenosha, Milwaukee and Racine, but the entire state.

“It would enable us to tie into the stream of Chicago’s businesses, and everyone would come off better because of it,” Becker said.

The current obstacle facing the plan’s progression is funding the preliminary engineering stage, which will cost $4 million. The federal government has pledged $3.2 million to the preliminary engineering, and the state has offered $400,000, leaving $400,000 for the county and city governments to divvy up.

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