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Milwaukee County board urges talks for bus line to Foxconn

Foxconnland2_klh (1)The Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors on Thursday prodded officials to begin negotiating a deal to establish bus service between Milwaukee and Racine counties, where Foxconn Technology Group’s massive factory is expected to employ thousands.

Supervisors voted 16-1 to direct Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele and officials at the Milwaukee County Department of Transportation and the Milwaukee County Transit System to begin talks with Racine County, Foxconn and state officials about a bus line that would be used to take Milwaukee residents to Racine County to work jobs resulting from the Foxconn project.

The vote came after Milwaukee County Board Chairman Theo Lipscomb had introduced a resolution in July calling on officials to begin discussing the possibility of establishing a new bus line. Lipscomb himself had introduced a plan in March that would have used $4.5 million left over from Milwaukee and Racine counties’ bailout in 2003 of the extinct Midwest Airlines for a bus line running to Racine County. That money can’t be tapped without a deal first being reached by the two counties and state officials, as well perhaps as the federal government.

A service of the sort envisioned by Lipscomb could bring as many as 1,300 workers from Milwaukee to Racine County every day, according to a study prepared by the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission.

“We need transit options that can connect Milwaukee workers to jobs at Foxconn before the jobs become available, or workers without adequate transportation likely won’t even apply,” Lipscomb said. “The county board has declared that dedicated bus service to Foxconn is a priority of the county, and now it’s up to the County Executive and his administration to carry out the policy.”

Above all, the proposed transit line would be used to bring Milwaukee workers to the massive $10 billion factory Foxconn is having built in Mount Pleasant. The company has promised to employ 13,000 workers in Wisconsin. Even before the factory opens, its construction is expected to employ as many 10,000 workers.

Estimates have pegged the cost of a new transit route at about $4 million. But even with money from the airline bailout, Milwaukee and Racine counties would still need to shoulder about 60 percent of the route’s annual operating expenses.

The Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission’s report found the line’s operating cost would range from $562,000 to $1.7 million a year, and that the counties would need to commit between $300,000 and $1 million a year toward the route. Fares would generate between $225,000 and $675,000 a year if riders paid $4 each way.

The report found that, because Foxconns plans to operate its factory 24 hours a day, seven days a week, the new bus line would most likely have to run between two and six round trips every morning and evening.

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About Nate Beck, [email protected]

Nate Beck is The Daily Reporter's construction staff writer. He can be reached at (414) 225-1814 (office) or 414-388-5635 (mobile).

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