With more people moving between the cities of Fond du Lac, Oshkosh, Appleton and Green Bay along Interstate 41, a commuter feasibility study is underway to identify ways to reduce congestion and move people who may not have their own transportation.
Led by the East Central Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission, the project’s partners include the Bay-Lakes Regional Planning Commission, Brown County, Wisconsin Department of Transportation, Green Bay Metro, the City of Appleton’s Valley Transit, City of Oshkosh’s GO Transit and Fond du Lac Area Transit. The study, which SRF Consulting is conducting, will produce suggestions on how to improve commuting along I-41.
One of the goals of the commuter project is to possibly connect all four transit agencies to create a regional transportation network.
Nick Musson, principal transportation planner with the East Central Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission, says the time is right to take on such an ambitious project.
“Two years ago, Fond du Lac Area Transit completed their transit development plan, Oshkosh completed theirs last year and Valley Transit is working on theirs now,” he says.
The most important reason to connect the cities: Employers need a larger pool of workers to recruit from but are limited to those who live nearby or have their own car.
“The area has such a low unemployment rate and we keep hearing from employers that they need better access to quality employees,” Musson says.
SRF Consulting Group and the planning commission are collecting data related to employers and workers to help develop future commuter service design concepts. As for what’s being considered, Musson says what works elsewhere, for example bus rapid transport, may not work in the I-41 corridor.
“We have four metropolitan areas separated by some rural areas. That’s unique,” he says. “We may be looking at multiple solutions and more focused on that ‘first mile’ and ‘last mile’ concept where traditional public transit can get an employee only so far and something else is needed to make that final connection. That could open the door to some kind of public-private partnership.”
Another idea is creating a smaller bus service connecting one side of a community to another with limited stops. Route 10 already connects Valley Transit with GO Transit.
While transporting employees is important, those are not the only commuters the study looks at. It will also look at seniors who want to travel beyond their municipal boundaries for either medical appointments or social events but don’t have the means to do so as well as university and college students who are looking for reliable transportation to school.
“Connecting the communities is not a want but a need. We want the plan to increase access to jobs, education and the arts and enhance regional economic development,” Musson says.
Once the research is completed, SRF Consulting will present several ideas to the stakeholders.
“We want to keep the door open to whatever ideas the consultant may have,” Musson says. “Our coverage area is so large, we will need multiple solutions. The communities along I-41 are all so different, with each one having different needs.”
As the study moves along, more information and updates will be shared.