From Rob Henken, President of Public Policy Forum, on their blog, Milwaukee Talkie:
On other major transportation issues, success is more difficult to define. For example, significant progress was made on planning and building diverse support for the Kenosha-Racine-Milwaukee commuter rail line, but lack of a local funding source has prevented the project from moving forward. Meanwhile, an act of Congress broke a 17-year logjam and divvied up $91 million in federal funds reserved for a Milwaukee transit project, allowing the City of Milwaukee and Milwaukee County to independently pursue downtown streetcars and bus rapid transit, respectively. Still, lack of local funding sources looms as a major obstacle to those projects as well.
Which brings us to perhaps the region’s biggest transportation infrastructure failure of the past decade: the inability of elected leaders to agree on a dedicated funding source for the Milwaukee County Transit System. As the Forum has documented in great detail, MCTS’ funding problems escalated throughout the decade. Receipt of stimulus dollars to buy new buses has delayed a full-fledged crisis for now, but that crisis is expected to re-emerge within the next three years. While a new regional transit authority proposal from Governor Jim Doyle could solve the problem, its fate remains uncertain.
So, as we begin a new decade, those looking to enhance the region’s mass transit infrastructure find themselves asking the same two questions they asked at the beginning of the previous decade and the decade before that: how will we pay for our basic bus service, and how can we even think about new transit options until we solve that fundamental problem first?