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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Transit authority rolls on K-R-M commuter rail planning

From an article by Sean Ryan in The Daily Reporter:

Planners of the Kenosha-Racine-Milwaukee commuter rail Monday gave up on waiting for state approval for transit taxes and chose to apply for federal planning money.

The Southeastern Regional Transit Authority will not get federal construction money for the estimated $232.7 million project without a state law letting local governments raise taxes to pay for transit. But the authority is eligible for planning money and, after delaying the application since January, chose to push ahead without the state law.

Lee Holloway, a member of the Southeastern RTA, said the approach will lead to pointless planning for the rail project.

“Why should we be moving forward if we don’t know what is going to take place?” said Holloway, who is chairman of the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors.

The RTA by June 21 will apply for Federal Transit Authority approval to begin engineering the KRM project.

A change in FTA policy means the agency now will consider an application for engineering money. But the project will not get federal construction grants until the state Legislature approves new taxes, such as a sales tax, for buses in the region, said Ken Yunker, executive director of the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission.

The Legislature closed its session in April without Assembly or Senate votes on an RTA bill. The Legislature is unlikely to reconvene to discuss an RTA bill until early 2011, after state elections in November, said state Rep. Peter Barca, D-Kenosha.

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