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With No Options: SERTA Disbands, KRM Project on hold.
The Wisconsin state budget sealed the fate of SERTA, the Southeastern Regional Transit Authority, the sponsor and local funding source of the KRM Commuter Rail project. The elimination of SERTA resulted in forcing the KRM Commuter Rail project into an “on hold” status as it was poised to begin engineering after well over a decade of planning and consensus.
The state budget included language to repeal all regional transit authorities (RTA’s) in Wisconsin, which left no options for SERTA but to dissolve and return $21 million in federal planning and construction funds for the KRM Commuter Rail project. Until a means to build, operate and fund the KRM project, it will remain on hold. See more about the RTA Repeal.
SERTA was created to operate regional transit and to fund and operate KRM Commuter Rail, and was the hopeful operator for an integrated and efficient regional multi-modal transit system.
Lost is a crucial economic development tool and accessibility link that KRM would have created between Milwaukee, lakeshore cities and suburbs, and Chicago. KRM would have made 15 round-trips per day and provided over 2 million passenger trips per year.
Leaders were dismayed but hopeful that under different economic times, the rail line will be resurrected.
RTA Board member and Greater Milwaukee Committee president, Julia Taylor stated in the Journal Sentinel:
"It's a day of disappointment. The needs of transit are not going to go away. The needs of transit are stronger than ever. We didn't get there today, but there's always tomorrow."
Leaders still want KRM to roll according to The Business Journal:
Bryan Albrecht, president of Gateway Technical, which has major campuses in Racine and Kenosha stated that the need for better transportation between the three southeast Wisconsin cities is "absolutely there,” Current public transit options can make it difficult for some students to reach the campuses, “which means they can’t get a job, which means that everybody is being affected by it.”
“I just hope we don’t ever give up on the need for improved transportation services, whether it’s called KRM or if there’s another methodology to it.”
Todd Battle, president of the Kenosha Area Business Alliance, sees the KRM line as a path to the revitalization of downtown Kenosha. Karl Ostby, Chairman of SERTA stated: “Milwaukee and Chicago are becoming more and more of one megalopolis and I think over time, finding more ways to connect the communities makes sense. There’s a lot of groundwork done and I think at some point in time this will come back,” he said in the Business Journal.
One silver lining came when SERTA voted to disburse $1.2 million in accumulated funds to Milwaukee, Racine, and Kenosha Counties. Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele has said that he will use the $600,000 to shore up their bus system operations. SERTA also voted to ask the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) to reallocate a $6 million federal KRM planning grant to buses in the region. That request was denied and the funds were withdrawn for projects in other state.
KRM is on hold. This is a big step backward for jobs, the economy and quality of life in SE Wisconsin.
However, far from dead is the vision, need, and broad support for an affordable and efficient regional linkage to the powerful metro Chicago economy that will open up job and education opportunities, spur economic development, and revitalize nieghborhoods and business districts all along one of the state's most important economic corridors.
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