By David A. Wise
MILWAUKEE — County Board Chairman Lee Holloway recommended to a county board task force today that the county should consider forming its own transit authority, that others in the region could later join.
The task force, which is considering Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Transit Authority recommendations, was convened after after the RTA proposed in recommendations to the state that it become permanent and be allowed to levy a 0.5 percent sales tax to fund the KRM commuter rail line and local transit. The RTA includes Milwaukee, Racine and Kenosha.
The county however, is seeking it’s own 1 percent sales tax to fund transit, parks and emergency medical services.
Holloway told the task force that his goal is not to close the door on the KRM line or a regional RTA, but that the county needs to stabilize its own transit, parks and EMS systems and provide property tax relief as residents voted for on a Nov. 4 referendum. Holloway said Milwaukee has experience with rubber-tire transit and could provide expanded services to other areas without additional administrative expense.
Holloway also asked the task force to consider pushing for using the $91.5 million in federal transit funds set aside 17 years ago for transit in Milwaukee to be used, in part or in whole, to fund the KRM line.
Milwaukee County Exec. Scott Walker was unavailable for comment, as he was in Washington D.C. for an event for President George W. Bush. A spokewoman for Walker noted that Walker wants to use the federal funds for a bus rapid transit system and is opposed to increased sales taxes.
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett’s representative on the RTA spoke in support of the RTA’s recommendations, saying a dedicated funding source for transit is needed and noted that transit funds collected by the RTA would stay in the county they are raised in and be used for KRM and local transit.