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Thursday, August 28, 2008

Coalition wants transit to Pabst Farms development

From an article by Sean Ryan in The Daily Reporter:

A Milwaukee group says the construction of an interchange to serve Oconomowoc’s Pabst Farms shouldn’t move forward unless public transit improvements are part of the plan.

American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin Foundation Inc. attorneys filed a complaint (PDF) Tuesday on behalf of the Good Jobs & Livable Neighborhoods coalition.

Coalition Director Pamela Fendt said the complaint doesn’t seek to stop the more than $23 million construction of the Interstate 94 interchange in Oconomowoc. It asks the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission to allot resources to mass transit if the interchange is built.

“It seems like what we see moving forward is the freeway work,” Fendt said, “and we are really at a standstill when it comes to making decisions on mass transit.”

The state Department of Transportation decided to expand the interchange at I-94 and County Trunk Highway P before its scheduled 2010 date because of the proposed Town Centre shopping complex at Pabst Farms. Waukesha County is contributing $1.75 million to the project, the city $400,000, and the state will pay the balance.

Representatives from SEWRPC, Pabst Farms and WisDOT did not comment on the complaint before deadline, saying they had not yet seen it.

Good Jobs & Livable Neighborhoods complained SEWRPC appointees and committees did not fairly represent Milwaukee’s minority workers when they approved changes to the regional transportation plan to include the expanded interchange.

Larry Dupuis, legal director for the ACLU of Wisconsin Foundation, said he hopes the feds will require representatives of Milwaukee’s minority communities to sign off on future additions to southeast Wisconsin’s highway project plans.

He also said state and local resources should be allotted for transit projects, including busing and rail projects such as the Kenosha-Racine-Milwaukee commuter rail line.

“Everybody talks about ‘smart growth’ and trying to diminish our dependence on foreign oil and those kinds of things,” he said. “The rule has been more roads and fewer transit resources, and we’re trying to put a halt to that.”

The complaint asks the U.S. DOT to order more planning to incorporate concerns of minority and transit-dependent residents and end its “absolute and substantial deference to local governments.” Short of that, it asks the federal government to ban SEWRPC from receiving federal money.

If new transit or bus routes are not created linking Milwaukee to Pabst Farms, unemployed Milwaukee residents will not have the chance to get jobs in the Town Centre mall, Fendt said.

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