Milwaukee alderman raises concerns on Foxconn at transportation meeting

Milwaukee Alderman Robert Bauman raised concerns about Foxconn’s shifting plans for its Mount Pleasant plant at a recent meeting of the city’s transportation review board.

“So this is primarily a bunch of robots working down there… You don’t need a bunch of commuter buses,” he said yesterday.

The city’s Public Transportation, Utilities and Waterways Review Board met yesterday morning to get an update from the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission. The commission’s deputy director, Kevin Muhs, pushed back on Bauman’s claim.

Muhs admitted Foxconn’s short-term plans have changed, from a more advanced generation 10.5 plant to a generation 6 plant. And about 90 percent of the promised jobs will be in engineering, research and sales, rather than direct assembly workers.

He also said he expects “increased automation at the assembly plant itself,” based on comments made by the company.

“From a long-range planning perspective, things shifting under our feet is a real challenge,” Muhs said.

But, he said, “they’re still committing to that 13,000 jobs… You are talking about a significant number of people at one site.”

“If it’s 13,000 jobs and 90 percent are engineering and sales, and they’re still working 9 to 5, that’s still an incredible amount of vehicles trying to get to one location at once,” Muhs continued. “So you still need larger vehicles like buses or trains to compensate for that.”

Muhs focused on two transportation planning documents at the meeting. One contained conclusions from the Eastern Racine County Transportation Task Force, and the other was an amendment to the Southeastern Regional Planning Commission’s long-term regional land use and transportation plan, called Vision 2050.

“Both of those documents… contain a number of potential transit improvements that could serve Foxconn,” Muhs said.

The plan and the task dorce’s main recommendations cover three commuter bus routes. One would go from downtown Racine directly to the Foxconn plant. Another would reach from near Burlington in western Racine County, through Union Grove to the Foxconn plant. And a third would stretch from Milwaukee County along highway I-41/I-94 down to the Foxconn plant.

That third route would connect downtown Milwaukee, the Holt Avenue park-ride lot, the College Avenue park-ride lot, and the Foxconn Manufacturing Campus. It should allow for commuting in both directions, according to the task force’s report.

Under the more forward-looking Vision 2050 plan, that north-south commuter line would be extended further south, “to elements in Kenosha like Amazon, Uline and Pleasant Prairie outlets,” according to Muhs.

“Those are primary, large-scale bus routes that are recommended by both entities,” he said, adding that both documents also include two adjustments to local transit service in Racine.

One of those adjustments would extend one of Racine’s main bus routes to provide all-day local service to the Foxconn campus. The other would implement a shuttle service between Foxconn’s campus and an existing Amtrak station in Sturtevant.

The level of service detailed in the two documents isn’t the same, as the Vision 2050 amendment is more far-reaching than the task force’s conclusions. Since the regional plan is looking ahead over 30 years, it has “much higher level, all-day, relatively frequent service,” Muhs said.

“The Eastern Racine County Transportation Task Force was trying to focus on what they could get done in the next year to five years” he added.

The amendment to the Vision 2050 plan is open for public comment through the end of the month, and is visible until then at the commission’s website.

See the Vision 2050 document here:

See recommendations from the SWRPC:

–By Alex Moe