Nearly $10 million in MAPS 3 money has been collected; Citizens Advisory Board to meet 

The MAPS 3 Citizens Advisory Board will meet for the third time in its monthly meeting Thursday.

The board plans to hear more presentations and receive updates on revenue collection for the $777 million initiative. Program Manager Eric Wenger said the presentations will focus on Oklahoma State Fairgrounds upgrades and information about Project 180, a separate three-year, $140 million downtown renovation project, and how it relates to MAPS 3.

In the future, once enough revenue has been collected, the board will hire a consultant and priorities will be assigned to projects. Wenger said finding a consultant and hiring them may be weeks to a month away.

"The staff is developing a request for proposals that we intend to take to the meetings for their consideration so we may seek those interested parties," he said. "We're doing a final review, and we're hopeful to have something to present to the board."

Although a formal revenue report is not ready at this time, Wenger said it does look to be "above target."

At the June 24 meeting, the board heard presentations informing its members on projects around the city. Some were directly related to MAPS 3, but others were not. However, they did affect other MAPS plans.

Dennis Clowers, director of the Public Works Department, spoke about the re-alignment of Interstate 40 and the new boulevard. Although this project is not funded by the MAPS 3 initiative, he said it would impact several MAPS projects.

"(Re-alignment of I-40) will have a direct impact on the central park, on the convention center and on the boathouse improvements," he said. "All of these elements, which are a part of MAPS 3, will have a potential interconnection."

After the current bridge is demolished, the boulevard's construction will start on the west end of where the new highway begins and will follow the alignment of the existing highway. Clowers said it will be reduced from the original eight-lane plan, and the speed limit will be lowered to 40 mph.

Funding for the I-40 re-alignment will be provided by the Oklahoma Department of Transportation. Although Clowers said ODOT has committed to paying for the project, the money has not been allocated.

"It is not funded yet," he said. "There's lots of ways to get it done, but the fact is, the funding is not in place yet."   

Following Clowers' presentation, Larry Ogle, assistant director of the Parks and Recreation Department, detailed the city's master plan for walking and biking trails. The trails proposed in the MAPS 3 initiative will connect existing trails with new ones. MAPS 3 dedicates $40 million for trails and $10 million for sidewalks.

"We'll continue to attempt to connect to major venues, recreational venues, largely, in Oklahoma City," Ogle said. "We want to create routes of trails around the city that will begin to get more people closer to their neighborhoods and trails access."

He said the plan includes a trail that follows along the west side of Interstate 44 near Lake Hefner, another to connect with trails near the Oklahoma River and another trail to connect with the state fairgrounds, which are slated to receive $60 million in MAPS 3 funds.

The river was the focus of the final presentation given by Mike Knopp, executive director of the OKC Boathouse Foundation. Knopp said the improvements to the river from the original MAPS have been a pleasant surprise.

"What we're setting up to do is build one of the premiere urban aquatic centers in the world," Knopp said. "That may seem very bold to say, but I do truly believe that will be the case."

Under the MAPS 3 initiative, the river will receive renovations and improvements totaling $60 million. Some projects include lighting the river for evening events, improving the shoreline, adding grandstands and building a boathouse that will house art and music.

Knopp said the projects will augment the river, which has been rewarded with the world championship competition in canoeing and kayaking in 2014. Previous cities to host the event include Rome and Copenhagen, and the event has never been hosted in the U.S.

"We're really a new player internationally in river sports," he said. "Like soccer, it's a very large sport in European nations. "¦ It has quite a large following and is growing in the U.S."

The board also received an update on revenue collected by the MAPS 3 sales tax. As of June 17, the initiative had generated $9.9 million. Although the 11-member board doesn't have the ability to make legislative changes, it will offer an advisory role to the City Council, which will approve MAPS 3 projects.

The third Citizens Advisory Board meeting is at 10 a.m. Thursday at the City Council Chamber, 200 N. Walker.

OKC Public Works Director Dennis Clowers stands on S. Western Avenue near the recently opened bridge over the I-40 re-alignment construction project. Photo/Mark Hancock

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