MORE ON ECONOMIC INTEGRATION. A faster commute to Chicago might keep middle-and upper-middle income Milwaukeeans in state.
The Milwaukee area faces a stagnating economic outlook but can improve its fortunes by creating closer ties with Chicago, including a new commuter rail service, an executive told area real estate and financing professionals on Thursday.
That Cheddar Curtain free trade zone looks more and more promising. Wait a minute, the United States are already a free trade zone...

There's still enthusiasm for the Milwaukee Racine and Kenosha suburban train.
A commuter rail link from Milwaukee to Chicago - with stops at communities between both cities - would make it easier for professionals to live in southeastern Wisconsin and work in either or both cities, supporters say. That would greatly improve the region's ability to recruit such employees, and effectively create one large labor market between Milwaukee and Chicago.
That enthusiasm, however, is contingent on somebody else paying for it.

Congress has authorized $80 million for construction, and fares would bring in $3.8 million a year to help cover operating costs, the study says. Officials hope to get additional federal and state funds.

But the 33-mile extension cannot move forward without a local funding source, which would need approval from the state Legislature. A proposed sales tax for Milwaukee, Racine and Kenosha counties, amounting to 5 cents on each $100 purchase, failed to gain enough support at a Jan. 9 meeting of the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Transit Authority.

The project becomes somewhat more urgent, as Interstate 94 is to be rebuilt under traffic. Evidently new interstate highways are something else nobody's interested in paying for.
Authority members are trying to meet a June deadline to apply for federal aid. issing the deadline would prevent completion of the rail line by 2010, in time to provide an alternative during the main phase of work on rebuilding I-94 between Milwaukee and the Illinois state line. The authority's next meeting is set for Jan. 30.
New highway construction has advantages and disadvantages. In the early 1960s we didn't have to put up with summer construction delays because the interstates were being built on entirely new alignments. On the other hand, new construction doesn't really alleviate congestion: perhaps we get back to the "rush hour" instead of the "rush evening." There's a book review coming on that topic.

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