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NORMAN: STB rejects rail relocation petition; issues abandonment exemption

NORMAN: STB rejects rail relocation petition; issues abandonment exemption

Published May 26, 2009 02:54 pm - OKLAHOMA CITY -- Construction on a proposed remodel of the Interstate 40 Crosstown Expressway will continue, a federal agency ruled recently.

Officials with the Federal Surface Transportation Board issued a final decision in the controversy regarding Burlington-Northern Santa Fe Railway Company's efforts to abandon a section of the Chickasha Subdivision rail line in order to allow for the construction of the new I-40 Crosstown Expressway.


From the Norman Transcript.


By M. Scott Carter

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Construction on a proposed remodle of the Interstate 40 Crosstown Expressway will continue, a federal agency ruled recently.

Officials with the Federal Surface Transportation Board issued a final decision in the controversy regarding Burlington-Northern Santa Fe Railway Company's efforts to abandon a section of the Chickasha Subdivision rail line in order to allow for the construction of the new I-40 Crosstown Expressway.

The move -- which was being pushed by the Oklahoma Department of Transportation -- was contested by Oklahomans for New Transportation Alternatives Coalition.

OnTrac and other parties challenged the action, argued to reject BNSF's recent Petition for Declaratory Ruling on the grounds the action was not a rail line abandonment, but instead a line relocation over which the STB had no jurisdiction.

However, the agency simultaneously exercised its authority to grant an abandonment exemption to BNSF allowing for abandonment of the rail line to proceed without additional environmental reviews or public comment. The decision becomes effective June 9 and allows state transportation officials to proceed with the current construction plans for the Crosstown Expressway.

OnTrac Executive Board Chair Charles Wesner said the STB ruling, while disappointing, was not unexpected.

"The fact of the matter," Wesner said, "is that the STB bases its decisions solely on the impacts such actions have on rail freight shippers. There was no consideration given to passenger rail transit needs."

Wesner said the decision in no way implies that ODOT's plan to abandon the rail line and pave over the Union Station rail yard is in the best interest of future passenger rail transit for the Oklahoma City metropolitan area and Central Oklahoma.

He said the ruling "also in no way obligates" BNSF to abandon the rail line or ODOT to pave over the rail yard.

"The opportunity still exists for ODOT to make minor changes to the alignment of the new Crosstown that would preserve this important major rail line connection and Union Station's valuable railyard area," he said.

OnTrac recently had submitted revised engineering plans which show that a solution exists to save the rail line and rail yard that requires a shift in the new Crosstown of only 125 feet immediately south of Union Station.

The minor alignment change would take place within the area of the project not yet constructed. The shift would taper back east of Shields and west of Walker and directly tie-back to the completed sections of the highway."

Wesner said the change falls almost entirely within right-of-way already owned by ODOT, does not additionally impact the Little Flower Church, Latino Agency Community Center or Wheeler Park, and leaves the park mitigation area between 9th and 10th streets mostly unaffected.

Wesner said OnTrac believes its proposed alternative can be accomplished with minimal additional costs and little, if any, time delay in the scheduled 2012 completion date for the Crosstown.

"Having consulted with engineers, environmental attorneys, U.S. Congressional representatives, and Federal agency officials," he said. "We are convinced that if ODOT made the decision to immediately and seriously pursue this alternative, the Crosstown could be completed on time and federal money would be available to cover the additional costs necessary for preserving this valuable regional rail transit infrastructure."

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Sun, July 29, 2018 @ 4:17 PM

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