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$63 million approved for Crosstown Expressway

$63 million approved for Crosstown Expressway

The Journal Record

August 4, 2009

OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma Transportation Commission on Monday awarded $63 million for the largest and most complex phase of the massive Crosstown Expressway project in Oklahoma City.

This stage of the $600 million project to move about 4.5 miles of Interstate 40 to the south of its present downtown location will include a large amount of dirt work and involve city streets, rail lines, drainage and retaining walls, officials said.

“Pieces of what we kind of refer to as the ‘center section’ are part of our continuing plan to have the Crosstown relocation completed in 2012, and we’re on target with that,” Gary Ridley, director of the Oklahoma Department of Transportation, said after the meeting.

A delay in the phase work was avoided when an issue involving a Burlington Northern Santa Fe rail line that lies in the project’s path was resolved, ODOT spokeswoman Terri Angier said.

The federal Surface Transportation Board approved a request by the rail line to relocate the mile-long section after reversing an earlier decision that would have allowed the company to discontinue use of the tracks.

The state wasn’t directly involved in the issue, but is paying to relocate the rail line. A bridge will be built for rail traffic and the highway will pass underneath it, along the route of the rail line.

Work is scheduled to begin in the fall and last until spring 2011, officials said.

In other business, Ridley told commissioners that the state Transportation Department has submitted a preliminary application, or “letter of intent,” for $1.99 billion in funding from President Obama’s high-speed rail plan.

Under the proposal, high-speed rail service would be provided from downtown Oklahoma City to downtown Tulsa. The route is part of a nationally designated high-speed rail corridor that stretches from Houston to San Antonio and Dallas and northward into Oklahoma and Missouri.

“It really would tie the large population areas of Dallas, Oklahoma City and the Tulsa area to the Midwest,” Ridley said.

Improvements to overpasses, acquisition of equipment and new signaling would be needed between Tulsa and the Texas state line south of Ardmore, ODOT officials said.

If the application is approved for further consideration, a formal application will be submitted later this month, officials said. Feedback from the U.S. Department of Transportation on issues such as funding will determine how the state Transportation Department proceeds, officials said.

Ridley said high-speed rail service will become a bigger factor in the state’s future transportation needs, but certain criteria have to be met.

“It has to be dependable, it has to certainly be affordable for the people who use it, it has to be convenient so that people will use it and it has to be subsidized,” Ridley said.

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