MOUNT PLEASANT — Racine County Executive Jonathan Delagrave and Racine Mayor Cory Mason, along with other members of the transportation task force, on Thursday took what they hope is the first of many trips for Racine residents.
They waited for a bus at the Racine Transit Center on State Street, a building with decades of history regarding transit in the area, for a bus to take them to the Foxconn Technology Group development in Mount Pleasant.
The idea was simple. If the Eastern Racine County Transportation Task Force is going to be charged with solving some of the transit issues, particularly as it relates to Foxconn, they would have to take the ride themselves.
Michael Maierle, the city’s Parking and Transit Systems manager, calls the transit center the “front door to Foxconn.”
The Wisconsin Coach Line bus picked up the group just after 4 p.m. and headed out the station, first turning left on North Memorial Drive. The bus continued south on Memorial Drive, turning left onto Durand Avenue, then right on Highway 32.
From there it was pretty smooth driving down to Highway KR. And with few stoplights on KR, the drive to the Foxconn area took about 25 minutes. If two or three stops are added along the way, the commute could be closer to 30 minutes, maybe slightly more.
That 30 minute or under mark is one of the things the transportation task force is aiming for when it comes to bus routes.
Connecting past and future
The trip is one of the routes being considered to help move workers living in the City of Racine to the Foxconn site once it is up and running.
“As we work through our research, I think this is one more piece to help us start putting in solutions through the task force,” Delagrave said of the ride. “I think it gives us more of a feel of what we’re talking about because we went through the experience.”
As Foxconn becomes more of a presence in the area, Mason said the transit center is going to play a key role in connecting city residents to Foxconn.
“This site, more than anything, really does connect our past with our future,” Mason said. “Mobility is key to the success of the region.”
For the last several months, leaders and representatives of the largest municipalities east of Interstate 94 have been working to come up with solutions that would decrease the time to drive from I-94 to Downtown Racine and find efficient ways to get people to the Foxconn area.
The transportation task force held its monthly meeting on Thursday, with members of the Wisconsin Department of Transportation to hear proposals for some changes that could be coming to the area.
So far, some of the recommendations from the Wisconsin DOT include modest speed limit increases on Highway K, County Highways 20, 11 and C, along with better coordination of traffic light signals on each of those roads.
Other ideas that have come up include expanding commuter rail from Kenosha to Racine and Milwaukee, an idea which has been brought up in the past.
The task force is working with the DOT to create efficient bus routes that could include “commuter bus service” with several stops and a route that goes out as far west as Burlington; a “local bus service” that would involve Regency Mall, Sturtevant and West Racine; and an “express bus service” which connects downtown Racine to Kenosha (possibly a stop at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside) and I-94.
But city officials have admitted that there have been some significant cuts to the city bus routes to save money, so difficult decisions may be coming for the task force.
“I think you have to have priorities,” Maierle said. “We don’t want (Foxconn) to be at the end of our route where it’s taking an hour to get to work. That’s not very attractive … the service has to be attractive to people.”