7.1.07

CHEDDAR CURTAIN FREE TRADE ZONE. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel sees advantages in expanding interstate trade even if that turns Cedarburg into the northernmost suburb of Chicago.
Some Wisconsin natives have long viewed with disdain Milwaukee's relative closeness to the Windy City. The FIB acronym and the phrase Chicago-style politics are not compliments.

But new homes and businesses continue to fill some of the undeveloped gaps between the two cities. Although Milwaukee and Chicago likely will retain their separate identities - no rooting for the Bears in the playoffs - there's a growing sense among many business and government leaders that southeastern Wisconsin should better exploit the economic ties with northern Illinois, home to the nation's third-largest metropolitan economy (after New York and Los Angeles).
The article recognizes a bid-rent curve at work in housing prices the farther one locates from Chicago. But new residents north of the State Line are likely to be surprised when the Law of Peak Hour Traffic Congestion catches up with them.
Karin Hembrock's interior furnishings business, From Afar, draws at least one-third of its business at its Walker's Point store from northern Illinois.

Four years ago, Hembrock opened a second store, in the Chicago suburb of Winnetka, which has helped push more Chicago-area residents to her Milwaukee location. Her Illinois customers tell her it's easier to drive from the northern Chicago suburbs to Milwaukee than to downtown Chicago. Once they're here, they can combine shopping with a trip to the Milwaukee Art Museum or other attractions, she said.
The availability of fast Hiawatha service from Mitchell Field to Glenview is also inducing North Shore travelers to fly out of Milwaukee (or is it the availability of chocolate chip cookies on Midwest Express?) Some people are boosting the Milwaukee-Racine-Kenosha commuter service.
Many area business operators support the rail project, said Karl Ostby, president of Kenosha-based Southport Bank. A region tied together by commuter rail would allow southeastern Wisconsin companies to draw employees from a much larger talent pool, said Ostby, the transit authority's chairman.

The creation of rail stations also would stimulate development, said Richard Hansen, president of Racine-based Johnson Financial Group, which operates Johnson Bank.

"You look at every Metra stop, it turns into a great growth area," Hansen said.
In proper public-choice fashion, the bankers appear to like the idea of being located close to a commuter train stop on a train line that somebody else paid for. What happened to the idea of the trolley company building the electric park to keep the cars active on Sundays or stringing transmission wires in order to sell more lightbulbs and appliances. (Consider the full implications of The Milwaukee Light Heat & Traction Company.)

On the other hand, perhaps the recognition of a Cheddar Curtain Free Trade Zone will convince Wisconsin policymakers to give their indentured-servitude-tuition break (which Inside Higher Ed picked up, two months after we had it, and which the dean at Anonymous Community has trashed) the burial in an unmarked grave it deserves.
What the Wisconsin plan utterly fails to grasp is the nature of the educated worker. If you want to attain a critical mass of young creative-class types, you won't do it by trapping them. You'll do it by attracting them, until they start attracting each other. Pour the money that would have gone into tracking down those miscreants who moved at age 28 for a spouse or a job into something actually useful, like maybe upgrading a second campus to Madison level or upgrading some Madison programs to the next level, or even strengthening the academic transfer core programs at Wisconsin cc's. Maybe refurbish some downtowns or improve some light-rail systems or slow the rate of tuition increases generally or cut somebody's taxes. But don't try to clip the wings of ambitious young people whose idea of the world stretches beyond the state line.
Now you are beginning to catch on.

And never mind spending that money on downtown or on restoring the interurbans: the tollway, Metra, and the Hiawathas are a good place to start. The Journal-Sentinel has a public forum going on the crossborder phenomenon, and one participant has an interesting wish list.
I hope it creeps right up into the Fox Cities. A high speed rail would hugely benefit both Wisconsin and Illinois. Imagine if you could take a high speed train from Appleton or Green Bay or Milwaukee to downtown Chicago. You could theoretically live in Wisconsin and work in Chicago or vice versa. It certainly works on the East Coast. We have so much to offer in Wisconsin from the Illinois border to Green Bay - let's take advantage of our benefits and tie the two states together for mutual economic advantage. I am generally opposed to taxes, but even I would support a huge sales tax increase to fund high speed rail between pretty much anywhere in Wisconsin and Chicago. Let's do it!
I'd recommend building it by increments, the way Illinois and Wisconsin have been doing it on the St. Louis, Carbondale, and Milwaukee lines. First, get the 110 mph track working between Dwight and Springfield, then give the Hiawathas free rein to 110 the way K. F. Nystrom and C. H. Bilty intended, then put the second track and the 110 back in on the Illinois Central, then get something resembling the old 400 corridor started north of Milwaukee. (Perhaps a photo essay on vanished Midwestern corridors is in order.)

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