Making the Case for Commuter Rail

Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:36 pm

Hutterly: We Can be Something Greater

For those of us in business, I think the concept of infrastructure is changing. Traditional infrastructure is a given. You need that just to get in the game.

For companies like S.C. Johnson & Son Inc., the next basic piece of infrastructure we need is quality of life. I’m talking about a clean environment and access to cultural, entertainment and educational opportunities. Quality of life is a basic requirement to attracting and keeping talented people in the new economy. It’s a new aspect of connectedness. It’s also something companies study when looking to expand or relocate.

You might be thinking, "What? Isn’t Racine good enough for you?" It’s good enough for me. It’s good enough for five generations of Johnsons. It’s good enough for the people who live in Racine today.

But, I’ll be frank. It is not good enough for a graduate of the London School of Economics. It is not good enough for a young professional who has worked for Fidelity in Boston. At one time, S.C. Johnson may not have needed those people, but today, we do.

About five years ago, a proposal landed on the desk of our chief executive officer. The proposal recommended a pilot study, which, if followed to its logical conclusion, would ultimately have moved a chunk of our headquarters out of Racine to Chicago. The report noted that the No. 1 reason SCJ loses key people is our location in Racine.

If S.C. Johnson is to grow as a company, we have to continue to attract world-class talent. The person who drafted that proposal did not believe Racine could attract such talent. SCJ obviously didn’t move its headquarters from Racine as a result of that proposal, and we have no intention of doing so. But look at our main competition.

Clorox is in Oakland, Calif., where a strong transportation system connects Oakland to that captivating city by the Bay, San Francisco. Procter & Gamble is in Cincinnati, Ohio, which has a great downtown and waterfront with steamboats, restaurants and lunch-time concerts. Another competitor, Reckitt Benckiser, is in Wayne, N.J., which is a nice little township, connected by commuter rail to the excitement of New York City. Sara Lee, of course, is in Chicago.

I believe Racine and southeastern Wisconsin can be a place where people would love to live. We have the Lake. We have affordable living. We have the culture and sports of Chicago and Milwaukee. But Racine is not connected to Chicago or Milwaukee the way Oakland is to San Francisco or Wayne Township is to New York.

My company believes southeastern Wisconsin needs a commuter rail that goes not just from Chicago to Kenosha but on to Racine and Milwaukee. "But commuter rail is not just so that S.C. Johnson or Case New Holland executives can live in Chicago or Milwaukee. We believe commuter rail is important to everyone in southeastern Wisconsin.

I ask Gov. Jim Doyle to work with local, state and federal officials to make commuter rail a reality for the following reasons:

  1. A direct connection to Chicago will spur the development of the Kenosha-to-Milwaukee corridor. It will create business opportunity, real estate opportunity and job opportunity.
  2. It’s an investment that will help prepare southeastern Wisconsin for the transition to the knowledge economy.
  3. Commuter rail has proven over and over that it adds value to property in the communities that it serves, which in turn helps build the tax base.
  4. It will open up the cultural opportunities of Chicago and Milwaukee to us and open up our festivals and cultural opportunities to them.

My fifth reason is more intangible. I realize that commuter rail is a bold decision. But what it says is very important. It says to the world that we are going to be something greater than we have been, that we are going to expand our concept of who we are and what we can do.

Mariano: Rail Would Support Tourism

As Milwaukee steps up to support Chicago’s bid to potentially host the 2016 Summer Olympics, the benefits of regionalism are reinforced. Leaders throughout southeastern Wisconsin and northern Illinois have already embraced the idea of expanding boundaries and creating a larger unified geographic area, which clearly has the potential to increase opportunities, both socially and economically, for all.

A transportation proposal under way, the Kenosha-Racine-Milwaukee (KRM) commuter rail, promises to add to the regional momentum. Using existing right of way along Lake Michigan, the KRM commuter rail will directly link densely populated and rapidly developing communities within Kenosha, Racine and Milwaukee counties with Chicago and northeastern Illinois, providing a valuable new transportation link for people and commerce. The KRM commuter rail will make it easier for people to travel within this important corridor.

The first steps in creating this new system are under way. The governor and state Legislature approved a three-county regional transit authority last July, which is funded through car rental fees. The authority is the first step in developing the most beneficial transportation options for our region and securing ongoing funding for the KRM commuter rail.

According to Transit Now, a nonprofit transportation organization in southeastern Wisconsin, one-way fares to ride the KRM commuter rail are projected to range from $1.80 to $8.20 per passenger, depending on the destination. Passengers could potentially use the system by 2009.

The KRM commuter rail will create better access to hotels and for convention visitors, effortless and affordable travel between cities and link tourist attractions throughout the lakefront corridor. Increased access is attractive not only for the hospitality industry, but also for the economic vitality of our area in general, as we begin to see more people choosing to live, work and play in the region. The commuter railway will deliver a willing labor force to employers along the southern coastline of Wisconsin and northern Illinois as well as establish greater linkage to General Mitchell International Airport.

Economists and planners point out that the Milwaukee-Racine-Chicago corridor has the potential to become one of the nation’s most important economic corridors if commuter rail connections are included in its development.

As plans for the KRM commuter rail move forward, southeastern Wisconsin needs to embrace this project and recognize it as a golden opportunity for the future of our state. With an enhanced regional transportation system, the region has the ability to host the 2016 Summer Olympics and become a top-notch tourist destination, as well as a more attractive area to live and work.

For more information on the KRM commuter rail visit

Editor’s note:

KRM (Kenosha, Racine, Milwaukee) Commuter Rail is a proposed 33-mile project using the existing Union Pacific North commuter rail line. The line currently runs from Chicago to Kenosha. The KRM is projected to serve more than 1.1 million people per year on seven round-trips per weekday between Chicago and Milwaukee, with Wisconsin stops planned in Milwaukee, Cudahy-St. Francis (airport shuttle provided), South Milwaukee, Oak Creek, Caledonia, Racine, Somers and Kenosha. Fares are expected to be similar to those of a bus. The commuter train will use existing upgraded rail right-of-way. Commuter rail is not "light rail," which has been so vilified by some political commentators. For more information about KRM Commuter Rail, visit

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