RACINE – A group of Racine alders and the mayor want to bring back the long-dead, proposed Kenosha-Racine-Milwaukee (KRM) commuter rail line.
In a 15-0 vote, the Racine Common Council approved a resolution supporting federal investment in the construction of the KRM project. The resolution is sponsored by Alders Trevor Jung, Mollie Jones, C.J. Rouse, and Mayor Cory Mason. Public comments may be made at: https://cityofracine-org.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_MdNo8ODtTKCatV9Ot6n1pA
The resolution, recommended on May 25 by the Council’s Public Works and Services Committee, points out that commuter rail in the Milwaukee-Kenosha corridor would “contribute to desirable economic and community development in Wisconsin’s most densely populated area, including approximately 1.3 million residents, and directly serving 23 percent of Wisconsin’s population.”
The resolution also notes that the City of Racine is the Midwest’s largest municipality furthest away from the Interstate highway system. Further, increased transit access and regional rail connectivity are critical in addressing residents’ socioeconomic disparities, and public transportation reduces greenhouse gas emissions and facilitates compact land usage.
Long Discussed Commuter Rail; Never Realized
The concept of passenger rail linking the centers of Kenosha and Racine with Milwaukee and Chicago was discussed and studied for more than a decade before being killed by the Wisconsin Legislature in 2011.
In 1998, the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission (SWRPC) completed a feasibility study that showed a 33-mile commuter rail line linking Kenosha, Racine and Milwaukee was both financially and technically feasible. The proposal called for the line to use the existing tracks of the Union Pacific Railroad between Downtown Milwaukee and Downtown Kenosha. Riders could continue on to Chicago via the Metra commuter system line’s existing line. Stations on the KRM were proposed for Somers, Caledonia, Oak Creek, South Milwaukee, Cudahy/St. Francis and Southside Milwaukee.
The City of Racine created what is now the Corrine Reid Owens Transit Center at the former Chicago and North Western passenger rail station on State Street to link the city’s bus system with the proposed commuter rail service.
Local communities established an Intergovernmental Partnership in 2005 to conduct technical and environmental studies for the project. In addition, the 2009-11 state budget created the Southeast Regional Transit Authority (SERTA) to construct and operate the KRM commuter rail line. The transit authority was also authorized to collect a vehicle rental fee of up to $18 per transaction in Milwaukee, Racine, and Kenosha counties to pay for the project.
The 2010 state election, which changed Wisconsin’s political power structure, put an end to the KRM commuter rail plans. That year, Republicans took control of both houses of the state Legislature and the governor’s office.
The Wisconsin Legislature in 2011 repealed the state law that created SERTA. The bill was signed into law by Republican Gov. Scott Walker in June. SERTA dissolved in September of that year resulting in the indefinite postponement of the KRM commuter rail studies.
Since that time, there has been no official effort by state government resume the KRM project.