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OKG Newsletter

Letters to the Editor

Hub flub

Wanda Jo Stapleton October 5th, 2011

Regarding Clifton Adcock’s News story (“Back to the future,” Sept. 21, Gazette):

The Oklahoma City Council, on Sept. 13, approved submission of a grant application to the U. S. Department of Transportation for $17 million. That $17 million, coupled with sales tax from MAPS 3, money from the Association of Central Oklahoma Governments and the Oklahoma Department of Transportation, would total $26 million to fund the first phase of a multimodal transit hub.

OKC’s new hub will be located at the Santa Fe Depot. This location is beside the north-south Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad tracks and is just west of Bricktown.

The tremendous present-and-future cost of the transit hub described above should have been unnecessary! The Union Station rail yard and terminal building were purchased during the Bellmon administration with a $1.2 million grant from the federal government as an ideal hub location for the state’s railway network.

This rail yard, 300 S.W. Seventh Street, Oklahoma City, was eight blocks long and 12 tracks wide, and located beside existing railroad tracks that led to Will Rogers World Airport.

Nevertheless, the Union Station rail yard was doomed to be covered with asphalt when in July 2008, Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett, ODOT Director Gary Ridley and Greater Oklahoma City Chamber Vice President Dean Schirf wrote letters to the Surface Transportation Board that favored running the Interstate 40 Crosstown Expressway realignment straight through the Union Station rail yard.

Edwin Kessler of Norman filed a lawsuit, Kessler v. Surface Transportation Board, in his attempt to save the Union Station rail yard. Likewise the city councils of Norman, Shawnee, Chickasha and El Reno passed resolutions asking that alternatives to the destruction of the Union Station rail yard be considered — all to no avail. Ironically, a slight adjustment in the location of the I-40 realignment could have saved both I-40 realignment and the Union Station rail yard.

The Oklahoma City Council, with Mick Cornett in charge, ignored major public pressure and continued to do nothing. ODOT was in charge of destroying that rail yard and removal of railroad tracks leading from downtown to Will Rogers World Airport.

After destroying a perfect hub location already paid for, “they” now want to spend multi-millions of taxpayer money to develop a new hub. The question on everyone’s mind should be: Who benefits from this atrocity?

—Wanda Jo Stapleton
Oklahoma City

Stapleton is a former Democratic state representative.

Oklahoma Gazette provides an open forum for the discussion of all points of view in its Letters to the Editor section. The Gazette reserves the right to edit letters for length and clarity. Letters can be mailed, faxed, emailed to rcollins@okgazette.com or sent online at okgazette.com, but include a city of residence and contact number for verification.

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10.07.2011 at 07:56 Reply

An emailed comment from a reader:

This past Monday, Governor Fallin announced that she'll fix the state's substandard highway bridges by 2019 using structural beams from the "old I-40 Crosstown." Just as OKC Union Station advocates have long insisted, the old Crosstown structure still has 50-to-75 years of useful life. It simply needed to be redecked -- and could have been vastly improved for indefinite service using modern materials for less than $25 million in the late 1990s.
Of course, that wouldn't have destroyed the magnficent OKC Union Station rail yard -- something apparently very important to both ODOT and the OKC Chamber of Commerce. Now, suddenly, ODOT's "$236 million" New Crosstown project's actual cost-to-date has reportedly exceeded $900 million on its way to perhaps one-and-a-half billion -- and the cost of replacing the Union Station rail yard, pronounced "worth zero" by ODOT, is estimated at near "$200 million" -- which by ODOT's math means another billion.
Oklahomans can't say they didn't know. Citizen advocates tirelessly warned that this would be the outcome -- and that no new "rail hub" would ever come near the quality of the Union Station facility, which OKC got for nothing via a federal grant in 1989. Unless Oklahomans hold those who've committed these multi-billion dollar crimes accountable, such outrages will become the standard for future public policy. Does anybody here give a hoot?