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EDITORIAL: Green light: Motorists, ODOT win with decision

EDITORIAL: Green light: Motorists, ODOT win with decision

The Oklahoman Editorial

Published: May 27, 2009

The flurry of activity late last week, with legislators trying to wrap up their business and folks making plans for the holiday weekend, made it easy to miss an item of considerable importance from the nation’s capital. A review is merited.

The federal Surface Transportation Board gave its OK to the relocation of about a mile of unused rail line in downtown Oklahoma City — a huge victory for the Oklahoma Department of Transportation and for motorists weary of having their teeth rattled whenever they drive across the Interstate 40 Crosstown Expressway.

Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Co. had asked to relocate the stretch of line, which it owns and which lies in the path of the new Crosstown highway presently under construction. Opponents of the new highway — overzealous train lovers — claimed that relocating the line would damage a vital east-west rail path in Oklahoma.

A year ago, the Surface Transportation Board had granted a request to reopen BNSF’s application regarding the rail line. But in its ruling last week, the agency said there had been no local traffic on the line in 10 years and that the I-40 project "is clearly a valid public purpose.”

An unfavorable ruling by the board would have driven up the cost of the new crosstown, which is already at about $500 million, and more importantly pushed back the scheduled completion date. Now ODOT can move ahead as planned. The sooner motorists are liberated from the current stretch of deteriorating road, the better.

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