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St. Croix County continuing transportation discussion

A transit commission would be the next step in addressing transportation needs in St. Croix County, according to members of the St. Croix County Transit Subcommittee.

Supervisor Scott Nelson and BRIDGE for Community Life Director Peg Gagnon, two members of the committee, updated the St. Croix County Board on a possible commission during the board meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 5.

"It gives us the ability to get more funding from federal and state agencies," Nelson said.

In April the committee had a feasibility study done, and has held two open houses in Hudson and Baldwin to discuss the needs. Nelson said solutions would be both public and private transportation.

County Supervisor Dan Hansen asked what it would take to get private rideshare apps like Uber and Lyft to the area. Hudson Chamber of Commerce President Blake Fry said Lyft is already in the area, and he has contacted Uber in an attempt to bring it here as well, but its service is based on how many drivers have signed up for the area.

County Supervisor Judy Achterhof said the county cannot forget about its smaller communities like Glenwood City and others that she represents.

"It is our goal that we will not leave anyone out," Vice Chair Dave Ostness said.

Several community members spoke in support of transportation solutions during the public comment section of the board meeting.

Cardinal Health Operations Director Cathy Ableidinger said the company struggles with people having the ability to get to and from work. She said public transportation would open up doors for current and new employees, as even traveling short distances for work can be difficult.

"Opens the horizons for many more people to find a job with full time benefits that is stable and is looking for people," Ableidinger said.

Fry said the community needs to start viewing itself as the metropolitan area it is. In Wisconsin, he said, the St. Croix County area is the eighth of the 10 largest metropolitan areas.

"We are the only one without public transportation," Fry said.

For many, Fry said it is not possible to afford to live where jobs are, like in Hudson.

"If you don't have a car, if you're unable to drive, you can't take one of those great jobs," he said.

St. Croix County resident George Zaske, former president of BRIDGE, said the organization frequently saw the need for transportation to help find employment for the people with disabilities that it serves.

"The one area that we continually see come up is transportation. How do we provide transportation in a reliable and affordable manner," Zaske said.

He said it is an issue that also affects those with low income and the elderly.

Discussion about creating a transit commission will go to the board's transportation committee, before it's brought back to the county board.

Rebecca Mariscal

Rebecca Mariscal joined the Hudson Star Observer as a reporter in 2016. She graduated from the University of St. Thomas with a degree in communication and journalism. 

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