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MAPS 3 could bring commuter rail to area

MAPS 3 could bring commuter rail to area


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By Andrew W. Griffin

It is possible, according to panelists with Oklahoma City's Modern Transit Project, who held a public forum Tuesday night, hosted by MTP Campaign Director Jeff Bezdek at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art's Noble Theatre.The Norman Transcript - Nov 18

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Is there a day in the near future when a commuter rail system will link Norman to Oklahoma City and to surrounding communities? MAPS 3 could lead the way.

The forum, attended by approximately 100 people, began with videos highlighting the successes of modern transit systems in the cities of Portland, Ore., and Charlotte, N.C. Both of these cities -- Portland more liberal, Charlotte more conservative -- invested in commuter rail infrastructure with results that led to economic development, overall improvements and revitalization to their respective cities.

And then there is the proposed MAPS 3 ballot initiative, which is to be voted on by Oklahoma City voters on Dec. 8. The initiative includes a $130 million "rail-based transit package" project that would potentially create a five- to six-mile, rail-based streetcar linking businesses, attractions and residents in downtown Oklahoma City. The streetcar, commuter rail and a transit hub are part of the package which is called the Central Oklahoma Fixed Guideway Transit Study.

Marion Hutchison, communications director for OnTrac (Oklahomans for New Transportation Alternatives Coalition), spoke about the goal of the organization, which is promoting rail transit in Oklahoma.

Hutchison said rail transit is important because it's safe, reliable, inexpensive and energy efficient. Rail transit also helps reduce traffic congestion and unhealthy ozone levels along with other environmental issues.

Hutchison noted polls that show there is strong public support for rail infrastructure in Central Oklahoma. He also showed a map of existing rail lines and noted that if commuter rail lines were approved, they would potentially extend to Norman, Edmond, Midwest City, Tinker Air Force Base and Yukon.

"We're set up for running commuter rail," Hutchison said. "We've got existing infrastructure."

One of the panelists, Midwest City councilman Turner Mann, said that Tinker's sister base, Hill Air Force Base in Utah, has connection to a light rail. That, he said, gives Hill an edge when it comes to base realignment considerations.

Mann said sailors and airmen at Tinker, many of whom may not have their own transportation, would definitely use rail transit to go into Bricktown and so forth.

"We've got to remain competitive," Mann said. "And in our area there's support (for rail transit) and we want that pretty bad."

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