Demand light rail!
Resolution that the Norman City Council voted down 4-4 on March 9, 2004

Recognizing the need of Oklahomans for a variety of high quality transportation alternatives, safe and sensitive to area environmental and community impacts, enhancing regional economic development, integrated with regional land use patterns, and meeting the travel needs of people, goods and services in the near- and long-term future, the Norman City Council hereby asks Governor Henry to appoint an independent commission to make a comprehensive review of the current I-40 Crosstown plan adopted by the Oklahoma Department of Transportation, and also asks that the start of construction on this project be delayed until the review is completed and reported to the people.

Whereas, planning for the future is a critical responsibility of government, and

Whereas, conventional wisdom no longer suggests that investing in highways alone will solve current and future transportation problems, and

Whereas, choice of best long-term transportation improvements for the I-40 corridor in Oklahoma City should be considered in the context of regional, intermodal transportation needs and possibilities, and

Whereas the Oklahoma City Union Station and rail yard with all its associated rights of way, multiple tracks and ground level access already has many of the features needed for a modern urban intermodal transportation hub, and

Whereas, the Union Station with its rail yard was bought in 1989 for use as an Intermodal Transportation Center, and

Whereas, responsible governmentparticularly in these lean timesmeans conserving and using available resources efficiently, and

Whereas, having at some later point in time to buy and reassemble new rights of way would be cost prohibitive to any future rail project,

And in order to preserve a vital regional transportation option for our future,

It is the view of the Norman City Council, representing its citizens, that the above mentioned rail yard and rail corridors are vital for efficient development of modern intermodal transportation to serve the people of central Oklahoma, and we ask that an independent commission be convened to reevaluate this project.

Educate yourself on Union Station and the light rail option we will lose--who stands to gain?
The Oklahoma Department of Transportation has decided to route !nterstate 40 thru the old Union Station railyard, tearing out the old interurban track that served as a hub for light rail in Oklahoma.

Back before influence reigned supreme, a lively light rail service brought people to downtown OKC from Norman, Guthrie, Tulsa, Shawnee, Chickasha, the Airport, and so on. In the old days auto interests conspired with petrochemical industry and bought out light rail replacing it with gas guzzling buses and of course now commuting cars. At the March 9 Norman City Council meeting, council voted 4-4 not to ask Governor Henry to revisit the Oklahoma Department of Transportation's decision to tear out the rail yard for its route option D (see map at right--the one with the arrows) The debate was contentious and included accusations aimed at the Oklahoma Department of Transportation. Those who had been present in fact finding outings felt intimidated and felt that ODOT threatened not to fund any aspect of Norman's transportation future.

In our continuing effort to bring you primary marterial, we have included on this page several letters that lay out the narrative of the light rail discussion. You decide.
Subject: Crosstown / Union Station issues and public involvement

By Tom Elmore, Director of NATI (North American Transportation Institute)

The history of DART Rail should be a lesson to all of us.  One can also understand why Mayor Rocky Anderson of Salt Lake City preaches loud and long to any who will listen about the critical importance of saving downtown passenger rail stations and yards from the kinds of depredations ODOT is planning in OKC today?  Mayor Anderson went over to Denver a few years back pleading with RTD not to make the same mistake made in Salt Lake years earlier (the destruction of their old downtown passenger yards) - but to purchase what by then remained of Denver Union Station ("way down" in "lower downtown") - and why RTD did just that?

The effect of superimposing new transport corridors on existing urban development is simply never comparable to the way development naturally grows up around preexisting  corridors. We have the best set of existing rail corridors from arguably the best remaining urban central rail station in the West. It's NOT the narrow, elevated and highly congested downtown Santa Fe station - it's OKC Union Station, whose terminal building is already owned by Metro Transit.

DART Rail reused Dallas Union Station and a set of existing former freight railway corridors to create a very effective rail transit starter system (not just "light rail") much more cost-effectively than might have been done starting from scratch. The center of DART Rail is the multimodal center at Dallas Union Station - bringing together Amtrak intercity trains (with supporting mail and express handling capability), regional commuter trains and local light rail and buses. This is the key to a successful start. They mostly "used what they had," implementing admittedly limited service to a limited area in order to create support for the tougher to build, much more expensive future corridors. They've succeeded in spades and in the doing have very quickly created a sea-change in mobility and development patterns in North Texas.

Dr. Dan Monaghan - longtime DART Board member - told KTOK's Jerry Bohnen in 2002 "you all are making a serious mistake" in trading the Union Station yard for more highway. He noted that it was the availability of Dallas Union Station that helped limit the cost of establishing a center, freeing more funding for extension of actual rail lines elsewhere. He's noted in personal conversations that Dallas would have "killed" to have had a facility as complete and relatively pristine, meaning "as originally designed," as OKC Union Station - but that they had allowed surrounding development to impinge on the old rail yard, cutting it down. Now - as they work to rapidly triple the size of the DART system, they're out of space at Union Station and it's hurting them and costing them a lot of money.

I hope you've seen the map of the corridors from OKC Union Station and our existing rail access. As good as the Dallas corridors were - they didn't - and still don't - offer direct access to DFW Airport. We HAVE direct access to the northern portal of Will Rogers on an existing, high-quality line, along with strategic access to other key points. "But it's on commercial rail lines," some have protested. The owner/operator mix is changing rapidly in the OKC metro. WATCO (The Stillwater Central) has purchased most of the former Frisco line to the SW and Dave Donnelly's "A-OK" (Arkansas and Oklahoma Railway) is more and more doing UP's switching and other work in the OKC Metro. Shortlines are on the rise - and shortlines are ALWAYS looking for profit opportunities, offering the prospect of innovative, quick-start cooperative operating agreements. Needless to say, the use of these existing primary corridors would potentially free any substantial new funding for development of light rail and new bus services into the neighborhoods and business districts of the rest of the city.

Trinity Railway Express - type starter services using relatively low-cost Rail Diesel Cars would be ideal to run on existing routes to Union Station. (By the way, FARMRAIL/Grainbelt Railway Company - a division of George Betke's Midcoast Rail operation actually refurbishes Rail Diesel Cars out at Clinton.) From there, a simple extension of the original MAPS Transit Link downtown circulator proposal could quickly bring passengers right into downtown. It's "only a start," to be sure - but it would at least BE a start - and one that could be achieved without creating a lot of long-term construction havoc on existing streets or require more confiscation of private land.

It could probably be in service by the 2007 Centennial year. Imagine commuters from the burgeoning Tuttle/Newcastle/Mustang area (for instance) being able to board such trains at Tuttle and ride directly to the Airport or to Downtown (or even Tinker, etc.).

An intact Union Station, however, is the linchpin to making this happen rapidly and cost-effectively. If electric "light rail" is desired in these corridors as a later development, virtually all of the existing single-track rail lines out of Union Station are on rights of way adequate to allow such accommodations to be negotiated.

Moreover - only Union Station holds the practical promise of becoming a center for regional intercity rail development. Not only does it, alone, offer the available space to do this, but it's near enough downtown to offer fabulous access without being so close as to add to growing congestion problems. Meanwhile, the existing mail and express handling facility there is simply the best to be seen - and that is KEY to establishment of self-supporting intercity passenger services. It could also be used to help Oklahoma develop a position of leadership in advanced forms of specialized fast intermodal freight service. The Wabash National's "RoadRailer"? is a phenomenal rail-to-road and vice-versa technology - but it absolutely requires at-grade street-to-rail access, which only Union Station has.

The existing Crosstown facility could be redecked and refurbished with modern corrosion-resistant materials to serve another full service life for considerably less than $50 million.  When the Crosstown was redecked in the late 70s  those driving to work every day could tell you that it didn't present traffic problems much different from those posed by the current construction on I-35.

There's a lot of talk among the highway folks about implementation of "Intelligent Traffic Management Systems." Well - this would be a great place to implement it - routing through-trucks around I-44 and I-240, away from the downtown area. That would free up tremendous capacity on the existing Crosstown - and, of course, limited improvements could be made in the refurbishing.

There's another aspect to the redevelopment of Union Station as a multimodal center that simply cannot be overstated - and that is the immensely powerful synergy of reusing such a historic asset for modern transport services. It's something we really ought to try in Oklahoma for a change.

The involvement of Norman City Government in the Crosstown issue was an idea put together entirely by Normanites - who realize the overriding importance of saving the Union Station rail facility. It speaks directly to holding ODOT accountable for what it does with public money and with historic resources. Surely, as the state's third most populous city and a major stakeholder in the ACOG area, they have a point. We'll see what comes of it. Suffice it to say that both ODOT and ACOG have woefully failed to provide accountability in the development of the "New Crosstown" proposal. Even people from the engineering firms who were hired to shepherd the process say they've "never seen anything like" the abuses perpetrated to frustrate effective public input.

Officials from successful transit systems in the West are not shy about sharing the stories of their developments and urging other cities to follow suite. Still, ODOT never involved officials from successful Dallas, Denver, Salt Lake, St. Louis or other transit systems in the Crosstown MIS or as a means of objectively establishing the value of the existing plant at Union Station.

Others, too, in Oklahoma City, have taken extraordinary measures to keep such knowledgeable voices from being heard here. One such instance was in a Transit Forum held at Metro Tech in September, 1999 under the flag of the Citizen's League of Central Oklahoma.  Tom Elmore, Director of NATI (North American Transportation Institute) was asked by them to help develop that program - and spent months of work and a good deal of his organization's resources, both bringing in real experts and promoting the event. Tom Shrout, nationally respected director of St. Louis Citizens for Modern Transit, Garl Latham of DART and John Landrum, CEO of the McKinney Avenue Transit Authority in Dallas, came to the forum at his  request and at NATI's expense. However - when the actual meeting got underway, they were prevented by the moderator from making their presentations. Even Mr. Elmore would have been prevented from speaking had not the outraged crowd intervened. Each of those gentlemen say to this day that they've not only never seen anything like what happened that night, but that they would not have believed it had they not witnessed it. Suffice it to say that the "spirit of the Crosstown MIS" hung heavy over that forum.

There has been detailed discussion with a lot of engineers, planners and other experts all across the nation about the "New Crosstown" proposal. Only the ODOT people believe it is a good - or in any way acceptable - plan. These are the same folks who, if Gary Ridley is to be believed, have us over a $40 billion unfunded-roadway-maintenance-need barrel. Their highways-only prejudice is such that they never seriously considered the intrinsic value of the elegant Union Station complex - giving it a numerical value of "ZERO" in the Major Investment Study. Transit officials, engineers and planners around the region find this absolutely breathtaking. One fellow - a respected transportation economist who has worked all over the world for the World Bank - said, "I've never seen a worse plan." This, of course, is pretty much what former OKC Planning Director Garner Stoll said about it - and for that, as well as for his insistence on telling us other truths, he was sent packing. Garner is the one who wrote, "the idea that you can build two roads more cheaply than one is ludicrous on its face." Now Ernest Istook is essentially telling us the same thing - but only apparently because he believes we're now irretrievably "on the hook."

Talking to longtime engineers and others at ODOT about such questions as "why an issue has not been made of the renewability of the existing Crosstown," one can clearly see the great duress these people have been put under to withhold the whole story from state taxpayers - and to "sell" the "new highway plan." Now - construction is scheduled to begin in February, although the money for the project is simply not there. One would think we'd have learned by now not to allow the imbedded special interests to bulldoze us with the "build it and they will pay" philosophy. Some of us HAVE learned that lesson - and we propose, as responsible citizens, to make an issue of it.

Anyone should understand that this is serious, serious business. Dealing effectively with those who have so long usurped, controlled and limited the discussion and decision-making in these matters demands straight talk and direct action. It also demands integrity, vision, tough-minded persistence and an absolutely dogged determination that the right things be done. Those of us who have taken up this battle have done so solely to create better futures for our children than the shortsighted policies of the past have offered. There's nothing else in it for us. Be assures that we fear no question and shrink from no opportunity to confront the issues involved in any venue.

More Info and History from Tom Elmore

Have you seen the DART Rail system in Dallas / Ft.  Worth?  Folks down there understood so little about the initial proposal made back in the late 1980s that they narrowly rejected the bond funding proposal that was supposed to pay for it.  So - Dallas Transit leaders worked up a deal to appropriate a penny sales tax - and used surface tracks on existing former freight railway corridors (the initial proposal was for all subways downtown) and Dallas Union Station to develop the service.      The first 23.5 miles - linking South Dallas to the northerly medical and trade centers (as well as south Irving with heavy rail commuter trains) opened in June, 1996.  It has gone absolutely crazy since then.  It wasn't long before the trains were moving 40,000 riders a day.  It wasn't long before attractions along the lines - were boosted to new attendance numbers which are nearly unbelievable (paying customers at the Dallas Zoo, for instance - situated at the fork in the track where the line south from downtown splits - one more easterly, the other more westerly - TRIPLED in the first year of DART Rail service.) By 2000, a survey by an economics professor from the University of North Texas confirmed that the value of commercial property along the tracks in old Dallas had skyrocketed - and that old residential neighborhoods adjacent to the lines were being reborn.  DART bus ridership - the buses now often used as connectors to the trains - began to increase - something it hadn't done in recent memory.    In the summer of 2001 - with 5 years of gangbusters success for the trains - Dallas Transit came back to North Texans with a new bond election.  $2.8 billion to "hurry up and get the tracks out to Plano, Richardson and other "highways-only" suburbs.  It passed 3-to-1.    As you say, people today would LOVE transit and commuter train service like most of our cities once enjoyed - and, of course, there's nothing about it that would "force them out of their cars" as detractors such as Neal McCaleb so often charge about any real transit proposal.  In fact - the availability of transit extends the value of families' investment in their automobiles: they might actually get one paid off before it falls apart.  Of course - the propsect WOULD "loom" in cities with comprehensive transit systems - of people saying to themselves, "gee - why do we really need 14 cars?"    At any rate - DART ail is considered the ground-breaking paradigm shift in the West for transit.  The deal of going cost effectively with existing corridors and old urban train stations is now being copied in nearly every Western metropolitan area - except, of course, OKC and Tulsa. The difference in buses and trains is simple for transit purposes: Buses do not appeal to the middle class - which simply will not use them.  All-bus transit is a shabby, half-hearted "accommodation" for the poor, disabled and elderly (as long as it can be paid for with federal money...) by the bought and paid for "governments" of Oklahoma.   Trains - on the other hand - are VERY appealing to middle class folks.  They USE them - and the buses that connect to them - because they make sense.  They're safe, fast and COMFORTABLE.  People then start to think about "all the time they used to spend with a steering wheel in their hands" and say, "boy was that ever silly..."    In Oklahoma - the line between OKC and Tulsa is a natural for transit.  The state bought that line for a song - and improving it for really fast, state of the art service might cost $150 million.  More conventional service would come far cheaper.  Of course, when "big numbers" like that appear, the highways-only crowd at ODOT starts squealing.  Remember this, however - the cost of replacing the Turner (its base pavements are 30+ years beyond their design lives) will far exceed $5 million a mile - but, of course, "that's OK..." I just heard a radio news report this morning saying that 600 highway deaths are expected on Oklahoma roads this year.  Consider this: The 160 mph bullet trains of Japan have moved a passenger numbers equivalent to half the population of the world since 1964.  They have never produced a single passenger fatality.  French Nation Railways' 190 mph TGVs have moved hundreds of millions of passengers.  They have never produced a single passenger fatality in normal operations (I insert that caveat because they lost something like 5 passengers and/or crew to a Basque Separatist terrorist bomb some years ago.  The bomb blew out the sides and top of one of the cars - but never even derailed the train.  Terrorists have apparently pretty well given up on trying to disrupt train service in Europe.)    The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety came out with a study several years ago stating that the cost - the negative monetary effect - alone of the 40,000+ highway deaths we don't even blink at in this country each year exceeds the national debt.      Rail is all-weather transportation which is a safe as human beings can conceive.  The proven safety record of truly modern rail passenger service simply cannot be compared to that of roadways.  But - hey - who cares about a little blood and gore as long as we can offer it to "the god of the rubber tire?" It's "just the price of doing business" .........isn't it?    Even poor old third-world Amtrak has lost fewer than 100 paying passengers in its 30 year history. Did you know America spends considerably more money picking up litter along highways than it spends on Amtrak?    Just remember this: The BEST set of existing rail corridors in the West - and the ONLY Union Station whose yard remains today "as originally designed" as far as available space is concerned - are in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.  Dallas would have KILLED for Union Station as complete as ours.  These assets could be turned into a marvelous DART Rail-like system at a price very competitive with the $500+ billion the 3.96 mile "New I-40 Cross-town" will inevitably cost.    By the way - DART Rail in Dallas (all new 115lb welded rail track on concrete ties laid on old corridors - requiring no wholesale destruction of historic neighborhoods) was built to a 100 year-life standard - with no significant maintenance required for 40 years.  Standard life of Interstate Highway pavement is 20 years.  Bridges structures are supposed to last 50 years.  Virtually all Interstate Highway or interstate-class highway pavements in Oklahoma are, today, at least 15 years beyond their design lives.  There's "no money to fix them - no money to replace them...," but there seems always to be money to "build more..."    Here's my theory: Just as nuclear fusion power production requires the "controlled splitting of atoms," political power is produced when the taxpayers are separated from their money.  The more money - the more power.  Politicians, you see, don't like highways because "they're cheap" - they like them because they're expensive.  Very few things have corrupted our governments like the whole business surrounding "modern highways." (Yes - I know about the robber barons of the 19th century.  They were bad, bad guys driven by the same greed, avarice and ego that drive bad people today; however, I would submit to you that they were "pikers" compared to the contemporary American Trucking Associations and highway lobbies.)    So - am I promoting replacing highways with railroads?  Nope.  I'm saying that left to absorb their own legitimate costs of doing business, industry would change.  However, it doesn't take an Einstein to see which way we need to go.  A healthy, modern rail network would compliment and extend investment in our highway system.  It would take wear and tear and demand OFF of them, extending their lives and lowering maintenance costs.  It would lower "mortality and morbidity" associated with transportation in America.  It would lower our transport and associated costs tremendously - and give us a competitive leg-up in the world marketplace.    By the way - Oklahoma is in a great position in many ways to drive such a revolution.  We have everything we need - except the leadership.  Name a state that needs an economic revolution more than good 'ol Oklahoma.  Of course - in a situation like that, a lot of the imbedded big shots that have controlled things for so long here would likely become a lot less important - maybe even irrelevant.  Once again - sorry for the lengthy treatise - but thanks for being interested.    Tom Elmore  Tel: (405)794-7163

  OKC Union Station is situated at 300 SW 7th.  It opened in 1931.  It was built  to move the surface rail lines and two separate rail companies' depots out of  the heart of downtown.  Rail traffic was so dense by that time it was  reportedly hard to get a firetruck across downtown.  Grade separating the rail  lines and streets was the critical issue.  The Rock Island and Frisco railroad companies consolidated their station  operations at the new Union Station.  The terminal building - with 55,000  square feet on its main floor - was (and IS) a sprawling, generous California  Spanish (or "mission revival") style structure with many, many elegant  touches (small courtyards and alcoves with fountains and gardens surround the  station terminal).  It is certainly unlike any other building in the metro  area today.  The massive 12-track rail yard was served by subterranean tunnels which brought passengers (as well as mail and express) UNDER the tracks to  the surface passenger platforms via a gentle ramp from the grand waiting  room.  On Hudson and Harvey, street traffic met the trains "at grade" -  enabling easy passenger access and seamless exchange of time-sensitive mail  and express freight between trucks and trains.  Massive warehouses and  material handling areas were (and are) behind the passenger facilities.   Arterial street traffic on Robinson and Walker flowed (and still flows)  freely UNDER the broad rail yard via the magnificent underpasses built as  part of the station complex.  Union Station is the absolute center of the state's rail lines.  From it,  there's direct access along the former Rock Island and Katy lines to  Bricktown, the neighborhoods of the near Northeast north along I-35 to the  OKC Schools Warehouse, Oklahoma Railway Museum (which is refurbishing the  line for operation), Lincoln Park Golf Course and Zoo / Omniplex / Remington  Park area.  The city actually owns this line - purchased many years ago with a  federal grant supposedly for development as a transit asset.  From Union Station East, the ock Island Line runs near Bricktown, north of  OKC (accessing the former Oklahoma City, Ada and Atoka line directly through  Midwest City into the North side of Tinker AFB, the state's largest single  employer) to Choctaw, Harrah, Dale, Shawnee, Seminole, Holdenville, McAlester  (including the U.S.  military munitions facility) on to Howe at the eastern  border.  This line is largely owned by the state of Oklahoma or Union Pacific  Railroad.  Also East from OKCUS is the former Frisco line to Tulsa via Jones, Chandler,  Stroud, Bristow, Sapulpa.  This line is owned by the state and operated by a  shortline railroad operation.  To the West, the former Frisco line goes directly to the Stockyards, near the  May/29th Street areas and thence along SH152 directly to the Airport Freeway  / Meridian intersection at the entry to Will Rogers Airport.  There's also a  direct existing rail spur into the Mike Monroney FAA Center.  From there the  line bears WSW through Wheatland, Mustang and then on to Chickasha, Lawton  and Altus (yes, directly through Ft.  Sill and with access to Altus AFB.  It  joins the Houston to Denver Forth Worth and Denver City ailway (now BNSF) at  Quanah, Texas.  Most of this line is now operated by WATCO, a shortline  railroad.  The Rock Island Line West of Union Station goes along eno directly through  the state fairgrounds, OSU Tech, I-40 Meridian North area, Lucent  Technologies (or whatever they're calling it today...), Yukon, El Reno,  Calumet, Weatherford, Clinton/Elk City (with a spur into the old  Clinton-Sherman AFB "spaceport"), Sayre, Erick and Texola.  This line is  nearly entirely owned by the state of Oklahoma.  Just East of Union Station a railway interchange allows trains from the  surface tracks to link to the North-South elevated BNSF lines (where the Heartland Flyer runs today...) linking Ponca City, Perry, Guthrie, Edmond and  North OKC with downtown, the S.  Shields neighborhoods, Moore, Norman,  Purcell, Pauls Valley, Davis, Ardmore and Marietta to Gainesville and Ft.   Worth Texas.  Yes - rail lines which would have linked OKCUS to other parts of the metro  have been lost - but what remains is as complete a system as exists in any  Western city.  The destruction of the Union Station yard is a deathblow to the usefulness.   It is a deathblow to cost-effective transit development.  Although there is no  good reason to expand the volume of vehicular traffic moving through downtown  on I-40 (there's plenty of existing bypass capacity on I-44 and I-240 and  more building on the new turnpikes) - and although there is NO highway in the  metro with 10 lanes and no near-downtown freeway with a 70 MPH speed limit -  these are the standards to which the "New Crosstown" is supposed to be built.    All the "crumbling Crosstown" rot that ODOT has deliberately pumped through  the media is just that - rot.  The existing Crosstown could be redecked for  another 30 years' use for about $25 million.   Why do we NEED more than 100,000 vehicles a day coming through on that corridor?  (You'd think that, living in the only city in the nation whose federal building was destroyed by a bomb delivered in a domestic truck - we  might want to limit unnecessary truck access to downtown!)  Make no mistake about it - something is afoot here other than "the need for more traffic capacity."  I have no doubt that PART of whatever it is is the deliberate destruction of the Union Station yard and its rail access.  By the way - the East - West rail traffic on the current NSF lines which has passed OVER Robinson and Walker on the Union Station underpasses for 70 years - will be rerouted over surface crossings further South on those streets.  So for the first time in 70 years, commuters to downtown from South town will  face the prospect of being stopped by freight trains at those crossings.  Yeah - ODOT calls it "progress..."  I understand ODOT now has the Coates Field Service in a temporary office at

622 SW 7th Street effectively forcing appraisals for sale on home and other  property owners in the Walnut Grove and Riverside neighborhoods.  The problem they have is that they're easily $300 million shy of the funds needed to build this project.  However, they say their property acquisition program is "fully funded."   No OKC council person, county commissioner or Transit Authority board member had moved a finger to stop this deal.  Ask anybody in Central Oklahoma - or for that matter anywhere in the state - who wants your vote "what about the New Crosstown deal - what about OKC Union Station?."

The "standard dodge" on the Union Station deal is, "Oh - we're not doing anything to Union Station - we're just taking out a few railroad tracks and replacing them with a highway." Of course, they mean the terminal building will stand - but it will be like a dock without and ocean.  Would they replace the runways at Will Rogers Airport with freeways and then claim "you still have an airport" because the left the tower and terminal building?  That's essentially what's happening at OKCUS.  Only ONE track will remain - but it will be down in a 15-foot deep trench with the "new highway."

Ernie Istook showed us such projects can be "starved out" when he effectively denied Central Oklahomans the use of $13 million of their own money for the proposed 1996 MAPS light rail loop in downtown.  He went to the congressional house appropriations sub-commitee chairman and asked that it not be funded - and although NONE of it was in Istook's district - it was not funded.  Strangely, in the very same bill that denied OKC's request, Istook's friends in Salt Lake City got a $35 million ALL FEDERAL MONEY startup fund for their light rail system - which was ready in time for the 2002 Winter Olympics (and performed marvelously, by the way.) Just remember that 2 cents of the federal fuel tax you pay on any gallon of gas or diesel you buy goes directly to the Federal Transit Trust Fund.  It buys transit SOMEWHERE - but of the $28 to $30 million a year Oklahomans send in, we rarely get back more than 5 or 6 million.  Ernie told us we shouldn't get the use of a mere $13 million of that money that year - because "it ought to go to defray the national debt..."

Of course, he knew that transit money buys TRANSIT.  It doesn't repay the national debt - and I would submit that it bought transit that year precisely where he wanted it to do so.  Strangely, even Jim Inhofe, together with all the other Republican delegation  members and Republican Mayor Norick, had signed off on the OKC rail project -  however, they apparently didn't want it badly enough to fight Istook over it.  So it goes.  Once again - I've talked too long - but, I hope you find some part of it useful.  Tom Elmore

OKC Union Station is situated at 300 SW 7th.  It opened in 1931.  It was built to move the surface rail lines and two separate rail companies' depots out of the heart of downtown.  Rail traffic was so dense by that time it was reportedly hard to get a fire truck across downtown.  Grade separating the rail lines and streets was the critical issue. 

State of the City Address
January 15, 2002

Ross C. "Rocky" Anderson

Salt Lake City Mayor

Salt Lake City is flourishing. Our growing diversity is making us a stronger

and richer community. Our economy remains strong, with prospects meriting

optimism at a time when much of the rest of the country is struggling. And we are

a caring community, having committed to help those who are in need and, perhaps

most importantly for the future of our City, invest in our children.

(Portions here have been deletedwhat is shown here is from a 19 page report by the Mayor).
Page 6
In Utah, there has been immense resistance to wise growth planning.

Although we have seen some progress with the advent of Envision Utah and the

Quality Growth Commission, the only real growth planning to which our state's

political leadership has committed has been the construction of more traffic lanes

and more highways. What they seem to forget or choose to ignore is that such an

approach has led to even more congested highways; our traffic-inducing sprawl

development; our out-of-balance transportation system; the deprivation of mobility

freedom for those too young, old, disabled, or economically-disadvantaged to own

an automobile; our lack of mass transit opportunities; our downtown parking

problems; our increasingly polluted air; and the consequent health problems

suffered by men, women and children who are warned during many days each year

not to even venture outside because of the dangerously polluted air.

Our auto-centered approach to transportation and land-use planning has

created serious problems for our community. For instance, examples from around

the nation demonstrate that pouring money into new roads and highways cannot

solve, but rather exacerbates, traffic congestion problems. Furthermore, all these

automobiles create dangerous air pollution. Here in the Salt Lake Valley, air

quality health warnings were issued on 31 days last year, when healthy people

were told not to exercise outdoors and the young, old, and those with respiratory or

cardiovascular problems were told not even to go outside. We recently

experienced several days of air inversions when the smog was so dense we could

barely see our beautiful mountains  and when people throughout our valley were

coughing and avoiding the outdoors, as they were warned to do by health officials.

If we do not change our course, these problems will only continue to worsen,

endangering our health, frightening away potential businesses, and stealing

resources from important government functions, such as education and

humanitarian services. Part of the solution is committing ourselves to a transit-first

approach, which will finally bring some balance to our transportation system.

The residents of Salt Lake City have enthusiastically supported a greater

commitment to mass transit. They realize that more transportation options are not

just a nice amenity; they are a necessity if we are to maintain our high quality of

life, and improve our air quality. A recent Dan Jones survey showed that 45% of

Salt Lake City residents support my opposition to the Legacy Highway project,

realizing that more responsible transit alternatives must be considered. Likewise,

the enormous success of TRAX has shown that, when convenient mass transit

alternatives are available, people, by the hundreds of thousands, will readily get out

of their cars and utilize transit.

This public support has spurred improvements in local mass transit that are

recognized around the country. The University TRAX line has now become a

model project for its attention to community concerns during the construction

process. It is a crucial part of what will become an integrated regional transit

system that will transform the manner in which people get around in the WasatchFront in future years.

Over the last year, with the tremendous work of DJ Baxter, we have also laid

the foundations for other transit projects, including the securing of start-up funding

for the extension of light rail to the University Medical Center and obtaining, with

the vigorous assistance of Senator Robert Bennett, nearly $4 million in federal

funds for our intermodal hub to connect all forms of public transportation,

including commuter rail, light rail, bicycles, taxi cabs, and buses, at a single site.

Under the extraordinary leadership of our City Planner, Stephen Goldsmith,

we have developed a transit-oriented development ordinance. The Planning

Commission recently approved it, and we will be bringing it to the City Council

early this year. This ordinance will encourage sustainable development that will

maximize the potential of our growing transit system.

This sort of smart-growth planning must be our focus in the years to come

and it will continue to be a top priority of our Administration. Reflecting this, with

the help of several generous sponsors and through the hard work and commitment

of Stephen Goldsmith, we have created a symposium called the Physical Fitness of

Cities to highlight the latest and best in city building practices for the world when

our Olympic visitors arrive next month. This exposition not only highlights what

others are doing but also shows the world the leading role Salt Lake City will take

in smart growth in the years to come.

Letter from Dallas Area Rapid Transit

From Tom Elmore
North American Transportation Institute


Friends -

Dr. Dan Monaghan is a now-retired member of the Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) board of directors. He served on that board and other mobility councils in North Texas through the years of the fight for a modern transit system there and continues to work for better transport with Mobility Dallas. He's just one of many regional transit officials with real experience in multimodal development that our state department of transportation didn't bother to consult with before they pronounced our marvelous Union Station rail yard "worthless."

Dr. Monaghan knows what he's talking about.

He sent me this letter, specifically to present to the Norman council members Tuesday evening.

M.D. Monaghan, O.D.
2920 Old Orchard Road
Garland, TX  75041
Fax: 972-287-4045
Home Phone: 972-278-4045

February 8, 2004

Mr. Tom Elmore, Executive Director
North American Transportation Institute
PO Box 6617
Oklahoma City, OK  73153-0617

Dear Mr. Elmore:

Your interest in preserving intact the property associated with the Oklahoma City Union Station is a worthwhile endeavor. During my fifty years in professional life I have had the pleasure and privilege of serving avocationally on several boards and commissions having to do with public transportation. Probably the most important and challenging example was five years as a member of the board of directors of Dallas Area Rapid Transit, known as DART.

Associated with this activity was a scenario that bears a close relationship to your efforts toward maintaining the integrity of your Union Station. Early in the 1970s I received a call at my office late one afternoon from a management official of the group that was developing the Hyatt Regency Hotel in downtown Dallas. The location they had selected was just across the tracks from Dallas Union Station, which had been closed in 1969 with the cessation of rail passenger service. In order to develop the hotel in an attractive manner it was necessary that Union Station be part of the project. They felt, however, that it should be a joint development with the City for various reasons as the more far sighted planners envisioned its ultimate use for regional public transpiration.

This led to a proposal to the Dallas City Council for the City to purchase the station property from the railroads and lease it to the hotel developers who would, in turn, sublease it for shops or offices. The council agreed to put the proposal up for a vote which was the subject of the 11th hour call I received that afternoon. The vote was scheduled to be taken the next afternoon, and they wanted me to draft letters to the Council on behalf of two civic groups with whom I was associated recommending the purchase. My wife and I stayed up all night typing individual letters from both organizations to each individual council member. It was before the day of word processors and photocopiers. It came down to the wire and the proposal passed by one vote the next day.

It turned out to be one of the most visionary and productive decisions the Council ever made. Not long after that Dallas and Fort Worth jointly bought the former Rock Island Railroad line between the two cities. Close on the heels of that the DART referendum was passed which included plans for both commuter rail service on the line owned by the cities and for an extensive electric light rail system -- which immediately brought into clear focus the wisdom of acquiring Union Station as an intermodal terminal for the DART system, with the commuter trains also serving D/FW Airport.

Unfortunately, however, when the plans were drawn up for revitalization and renovation of the station, the need for track capacity was underestimated. Originally there were eleven tracks serving the passenger trains. The original restructuring done by the City reduced this to three tracks. As soon as the plans DART had formulated were laid on the table it was clear that two addition tracks had to be restored for the electric light rail line as the commuter trains to Fort Worth would need the three existing tracks. Also, Amtrak had begun service to Dallas which also had to share one of the three tracks with its trains to Chicago and San Antonio.

Work was begun and the two tracks were restored, which was a bit complex, since two bridges over streets going to the hotel, originally not present, had to be widened. This was accomplished and in 1996 both the commuter and light rail service was begun -- which has been at the top of the success stories in the transit world. Plans, however, are in the works to add additional commuter rail lines to other outlying suburbs, which will place greater demands on the limited track space. Further addition of tracks would be difficult as additional widening of the bridges would be necessary.  The solutions would have been much simpler if planners had looked still farther ahead and anticipated this potential demand, as there are requests coming from all quarters for other communities to be served by DART's fast 65 mph light rail trains.

There is a lesson to be learned here for Oklahoma City as it would be unfortunate for them to make the same mistake, if not a worse one, by removing major portions of the station trackage which might be impossible to replace. Make no mistake -- Oklahoma City people will hear that the city is not large enough for rail transit, ridership will be minimal and buses will be cheaper. We heard all of that in Dallas and experience has proven it to be untrue. Cities are experiencing rapid growth and they soon become too large for slow buses to serve adequately, and there is a reluctance on the part of the middle classes to use buses. Due to the speed and convenience of the trains and the park & ride stations they serve, the trains appeal to both classes who mix compatibly on their way to the workplaces and other destinations.

If Oklahoma City citizens would like to take a peek at what your city could have in a few years, they would do well to visit Dallas, ride the two light rail lines and the commuter line to Fort Worth and then transpose this experience to their own environment thereby joining the multitude of cities that are building or planning rail transit.

Sincerely yours,
Marvin D. Monaghan
Former DART Board Member
Mobility Dallas Council

A Transcribed letter from Garner Stoll regarding the proposed "New" I-40 Crosstown Expressway (emphasis added in the transcription).

This is the text of a critique of ODOT's plan for the I-40 Crosstown "D" Route was apparently requested by a local state representative. Mr. Stoll was the Director of the OKC Planning Department when the paper was produced.

This paper addresses some unresolved issues relating to ODOT's proposal for realignment of I-40. While I work for the City of Oklahoma City and served on the Technical Advisory Committee for the Major Investment Study undertaken by ODOT, this paper represents my personal viewpoint and is not intended to represent an official position of the Planning Department of the City of Oklahoma City.

A proposal to relocate and interstate highway through the center of a city is fraught with a complex array of economic, social, political, city planning, and engineering considerations. It is predictable and perhaps inevitable that reasonable people would reach different conclusions regarding desirability of the alternative alignments. This certainly has occurred in Oklahoma City. My problem with this study goes beyond expected conflicts between planning, community development, and engineering objectives. I believe the study used flawed assumptions and was carefully conducted to support ODOT's preferred route from the beginning. Please let me explain.


The engineering community's preference for the "D" alignment was well known around city hall far in advance of ODOT undertaking this Major Investment Study. After the MAPS tax passed in December, 1994, the Oklahoma City Public Works Department commissioned a traffic study (completed by outside consultants in 1995) that assumed the "D" alignment as part of its recommendations. The Oklahoma City Public Works and MAPS staff/consultants worked with a graduate class of OSU students to produce a scale model of downtown Oklahoma City that also proposed the "D" Alignment with the Boulevard on the existing I-40 rights-of-way.

The major investment study presentations were frequently convened with an announcement that "ODOT did not favor any of the alternative," which would be followed by testimonials about the merits of Alternative "D." I have not talked to anyone that was extensively involved in this process that was not aware of ODOT's preference for Alternative "D" well before the study WAS complete. Both the ODOT staff and their consultants spent a disproportionate amount of time at public meetings stating the merits of Alternative "D" and emphasizing the problems associated with the other alternatives. This study was not a serious attempt at objectively analysing a list of desirable alternatives. Alternative "B-3" as presented had serious flaws; it had poor access to downtown and Bricktown, proposed to close major arterioles, and was routed through expensive real estate.


Two fundamental premises guided the examination of the alternatives: 1) the desired design speed was to be 70 miles per hour and 2) the access points had to be spaced at least one mile apart. I am not aware of any interstate highway that passes immediately adjacent to a major downtown that has a 70 mile per hour speed limit or has access points spaced one mile apart. I have attached maps of other downtowns that have access points spaced closer than one mile.

Is it really safe or desirable for fully loaded trucks to proceed at 70 plus miles per hour through the center of a congested urban area with complicated interchanges on either end? Can ODOT give one example of an interstate that is constructed adjacent to a major downtown area that has either a 70 mile speed limit or one mile access spacing? Yet these are the assumptions that restrict reasonable access points from being proposed from the "B-3" alignment.

Can ODOT explain why the one mile access spacing is even an issue if through traffic is routed to separate express lanes?


This is the big issue. We have to construct Alternative "D" because it is the least expensive. ODOT's cost figures for Alternative "B" and "B-3" are, in my opinion, overestimated and their figures for Alternative "D" underestimated. ODOT's cost figures for Alternative "B" and "B-3" include from 47 to 59 million dollars for the reconstruction of I-40 between Western and I-44 to widen it from eight lanes to ten lanes. It presently is an eight-lane facility, in good condition, and is functioning at service level "D" or better. It has capacity to carry the existing and anticipated traffic volumes and does not need to be rebuilt. ODOT contends that it needs to be rebuilt because it presently does not have a 70 mile per hour design speed.

ODOT's alignment for B-3 requires the acquisition of the cotton gin. An alignment that misses the cotton gin entirely appears to be possible. This would save $40 million in right-of-way acquisition costs.

Their cost estimates for Alternative "D" do not include an adequate bridge over the canal nor adequate sound barriers or mitigation for the remainder of the alignment. Their proposal does not include funds for a bridge east of Western that is necessary to make the Boulevard usable.

Perhaps more important than an accurate estimate of construction costs is an analysis of the life cycle costs of the various alternatives. ODOT has not completed this required analysis, but it is clear to me that Alternative "D" with the Boulevard, or with retaining the existing bridge is by far the most expensive alternative from a life cycle perspective. TO claim that the construction, maintenance, and reconstruction of two parallel highways is cheaper than one is ludicrous on the face of it.

Life cycle costing is even more important in light of a member of the Oklahoma Congressional Delegation's recent announcement that additional "earmarked" funds may not be available for this project.


Alternate "D" provides less convenient access to downtown and severely reduces its visibility from I-40. This issue has been pointed out consistently by every credible expert that has looked at the proposal. This includes the ULI panel, the RTKL report, and the local real estate and downtown business community. Alternative "D" proposes to move a major portion of the regional traffic away from the downtown business core, which benefits from it. It proposes to reroute it through the Riverside Neighborhood, which is harmed by it. This issue is only partially corrected by keeping the existing bridge in place. The traveling public is still routed away from downtown.


Neighborhoods do not benefit from having freeways built through or adjacent to them. This is especially true of the ten lane variety with 70 mile per hour design speed with interchanges on either side. Walls and sound barriers help, but do not solve the problem.


While I do not agree that ODOT is saving money by choosing Alternate "D," that is their state reason for their choice.


Alternative "D" proposes to shave the northern edge off of Wheeler Park. If the highway is moved to the north to miss the park a railroad would have to be relocated, which appears to be unaccounted for in their cost estimates. Even if it misses Wheeler Park, it will severely damage its tranquility and future use.


ODOT's report regarding historic resources is oblivious to the many historic resources impacted. The report inventories obscure residential and commercial structures that are older than 50 years, while ignoring Alternative "D's" impact on the Union Train Station, Little Flower Church, Wheeler Park, and the rest of the historic neighborhood. It is my understanding that, to date, the State Historic Preservation Commission has not been contacted regarding this issue.


Alternate "D" does not include an adequate grade separation over the canal and is devastating to the future of the river as a parks and recreational facility. The western end of the proposed route is to be constructed at grade adjacent to the river causing severe noise impacts and limiting the amount of adjacent green areas that can be developed.

Alternative "D" also reduces exposure and access to the remaining MAPS public and private investments. This is particularly true for the ballpark, arena, convention center, and downtown hotels.


In my view, ODOT's major investment study was orchestrated to justify a conclusion that had already been made. That conclusion was that Alternate "D" was easier to build than the other alternatives. There are many questions regarding the validity of their assumptions, the objectivity of their cost estimates, and their assessment of neighborhood impacts, historical resources, and economic and community development impacts. We have recently learned that the bridge is not in danger of falling down and that ODOT has not even attempted the required life cycle cost analysis. We should ask them to go back to the drawing boards to develop desirable alternatives based on realistic premises. These alternatives should be subjected to objective and independent analysis.

I am convinced that ODOT, working closely with the community, can develop an alternative that meets both Oklahoma City's needs and serves the traveling public. Oklahoma City deserves the best.

Light Rail Option Defeated
Mayor Chastises; Is Chastised
March 9
Observers likened the March 9 City Council meeting to the McCarthy hearings of the 1950s.  The original agenda promised to bring to a vote a non-binding resolution urging Governor Brad Henry to revisit the decision by the Oklahoma Department of Transportation "ODOT" to tear up the existing rail track to rebuild the I-40 crosstown. Tearing up the track will destroy any hope for an easy light rail solution for metropolitan OKC.

The three-hour debate ended in defeat for the resolution but by a narrow 4-4 vote. Councilmembers Stawicki, Cubberly, Butler, and Ray supported the resolution. Bringing the issue to the Council was mayoral candidate Gail Poole. Those who opposed the resolution, unwilling to settle for mere victory, began a tirade that will long live in the memory of our City. Councilmember Leavey accused the citizen supporters of arrogance; Councilmember Hopper hurled the vindictive "special interest" at the citizen group (ODOT whose cause Hopper supported has long been accused of representing the construction/automobile/oil industry interests).

The last assault came from Mayor Ron Henderson who, clearly intimidated of ODOT, turned to retiring Councilmember David Ray and boldly accused him of causing all the dissention on the Council and in the community. "David Ray is so good at framing the issues to make his points that he should be a stand up comedian." (click on audio for complete tirade)  For a candidate who just signed a clean, attack-free campaign pledge, it seemed over the top. But Henderson, even wielding his overmighty gavel, did not get the final word.

Rising to the podium like lady liberty herself was a nervous OU student, a young woman who eloquently defended her professor. She was at the council meeting as an assignment it turned out. Through nervous tears and unsteady voice she shamed the mayor for his attack. "This is the man who taught me to participate in government...I hope nobody votes for you."

Our mayor might well revisit Government 1. We don't want a love fest; we want representation. And we prefer our representatives to be without "interest;" that is, we hope our representatives on the council vote in our behalf and not for the interests of those who stand to profit monetarily by the result of a vote.

Say goodbye to light rail Norman. Add that to this list of closing options: clean drinking water, improved sewer infrastructure; citizen access to full cable coverage; open meetings. Election March 30!

Resolution that the Norman City Council voted down 4-4 on March 9, 2004

Recognizing the need of Oklahomans for a variety of high quality transportation alternatives, safe and sensitive to area environmental and community impacts, enhancing regional economic development, integrated with regional land use patterns, and meeting the travel needs of people, goods and services in the near- and long-term future, the Norman City Council hereby asks Governor Henry to appoint an independent commission to make a comprehensive review of the current I-40 Crosstown plan adopted by the Oklahoma Department of Transportation, and also asks that the start of construction on this project be delayed until the review is completed and reported to the people.

Whereas, planning for the future is a critical responsibility of government, and

Whereas, conventional wisdom no longer suggests that investing in highways alone will solve current and future transportation problems, and

Whereas, choice of best long-term transportation improvements for the I-40 corridor in Oklahoma City should be considered in the context of regional, intermodal transportation needs and possibilities, and

Whereas the Oklahoma City Union Station and rail yard with all its associated rights of way, multiple tracks and ground level access already has many of the features needed for a modern urban intermodal transportation hub, and

Whereas, the Union Station with its rail yard was bought in 1989 for use as an Intermodal Transportation Center, and

Whereas, responsible governmentparticularly in these lean timesmeans conserving and using available resources efficiently, and

Whereas, having at some later point in time to buy and reassemble new rights of way would be cost prohibitive to any future rail project,

And in order to preserve a vital regional transportation option for our future,

It is the view of the Norman City Council, representing its citizens, that the above mentioned rail yard and rail corridors are vital for efficient development of modern intermodal transportation to serve the people of central Oklahoma, and we ask that an independent commission be convened to reevaluate this project.

Metro Transit, chamber seek $9 million light rail study
By Steve Lackmeyer
The Oklahoman

U.S. Rep. Ernest Istook is rejecting a request by Oklahoma City to seek federal authorization for $9 million toward planning of a light rail system.

The request, from the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce and MetroTransit and endorsed by the Oklahoma Transportation Department, follows talks started earlier this year at a chamber retreat where light rail was listed as one of the city's next priority projects.

Gary Ridley, Transportation Department director, said Tuesday both Oklahoma City and Tulsa area leaders have been encouraged to apply for funding to study the potential for light rail systems.

"There have been pros and cons discussed, would it work, would ridership go up and where would routes go? My feeling is in talking with both Tulsa and Oklahoma City that until we have a true study ... you won't know if it's feasible."

Istook, R-Warr Acres, could not be reached for comment Tuesday, but in a letter to the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce he repeated his opposition to light rail, saying he wants to focus his effort on funding the $350 million realignment of the Interstate 40 Crosstown Expressway.

He warned the city would have to pay 55 percent of the construction and 100 percent of operating costs for a light rail.

"Oklahoma City is rated as the fourth-least congested large city in the country," Istook wrote. "Do we need expensive rail to relieve nonexistent congestion?"

Promoters of the light rail system say they are looking at the city's future needs and how to continue momentum started with the Metropolitan Area Projects revival of downtown.

A copy of the Oklahoma City application obtained by The Oklahoman on Tuesday shows construction of a light- rail system linking downtown, Tinker Air Force Base, Edmond, Norman and northwest Oklahoma City would cost an estimated $452 million based on studies completed by the state a decade ago.

Dean Schirf, the chamber's vice president for government relations, said a committee looking at the city's public transit recently told Istook a light rail system is needed to serve Tinker, where parking is limited, to help increased enrollments at area CareerTechs, colleges and universities, and to aid major employers.

"This is a new day in Oklahoma City," Schirf said. "We have invested millions of dollars in public facilities in the central business district, both public and private, and more is planned. These are all new major destinations."

At least 3,500 new parking spots are being built downtown by the city, county and private developers. Further investments, Schirf said, can't be made in parking without taking money away from other capital projects.

MetroTransit Director Randy Hume said his request seeks authorization of $9 million toward planning and design of a light rail system as part of a six-year authorization bill to be considered within the next year. Hume said the agency's application does not limit the authorization to light rail, and could apply to dedicated highway bus lanes or other mass transit improvements.

Hume said his agency is spending $300,000 on an initial feasibility study, and the requested authorization would allow designs to proceed in the next six years if the city were to pursue a light rail or other fixed-route transit system.

Mayor Kirk Humphreys on Tuesday endorsed studying the costs of light rail and said the city's public transit system is inadequate.

"Intuitively, it seems to me light rail isn't going to make a lot of sense because people are so married to their automobiles," Humphreys said. "I don't know if I'm right or not, though, so I guess that's why a study might be helpful."

In 1996, Istook opposed a previous effort by the city to use $3 million in MAPS funds to obtain a federal match to build a light rail through downtown. In its place, he successfully sought money for rubber tire trolleys that link downtown and the Interstate 40/Meridan Avenue hotel corridor.

Since then, Istook was named chairman of a House subcommittee that oversees transportation spending. His office repeated its opposition to light rail when it dominated discussions at a chamber retreat last winter.

"Light rail really received a lot of attention," the chamber's Schirf said. "It comes back to us -- how do we proceed? We first have to get a study first. ... Congressman Istook is in a very powerful position that could certainly bring about money for a study for Oklahoma City."

Posted 1/16/2003 7:18 PM 
Interstates can't handle much more, report says
By Fred Bayles, USA TODAY

As Congress prepares to decide new funding for the nation's highways, a report released Thursday says increased traffic on interstate highways is beginning to choke the system's capacity to move people and goods.

  Traffic streams northbound on Interstate 69 in Anderson, Ind. 
By Michael Conroy, AP

Travel on the nation's 45,000 miles of interstate highway increased by 37% from 1991 to 2001, according to The Road Information Program (TRIP), a non-profit Washington, D.C., group supported by the transportation industry. Congestion has grown so bad on interstates in metropolitan areas that 2 miles out of every 5 miles of urban interstates have significant traffic delays on a daily basis.

As traffic has grown, the number of highway miles added to the system has increased by only 5% during the 10-year period.

The study lists the five states with the busiest interstates as California, Maryland, Minnesota, Rhode Island and Washington.

The TRIP report, drawn from Federal Highway Administration data, predicts that traffic on the interstate system will increase 42% over the next two decades. Truck traffic is expected to grow 54%.

"The interstate system has driven the nation's economy and given Americans a tremendous amount of freedom," said Frank Moretti, director of policy and research at TRIP. "Those benefits are going to erode in the future unless Congress is willing to look at a bold new plan," he said.

Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said the report highlights difficult issues. Congress must reauthorize long-term funding for transportation this year. Young said funding must increase $31 billion to $40 billion a year "just to maintain the system as it is today."

"The big rub is where are we going to find the money," he said.

New funding could come from an increase in the federal gasoline tax, now 18.4 cents a gallon, or from a greater use of cash reserves in the federal highway trust fund. That fund finances road building and repair with gas-tax revenue.

The TRIP report had some good news. It said the condition of the interstate system has shown improvements in the past five years:

The amount of interstate miles listed in poor or mediocre condition dropped from 27% in 1996 to 16% in 2001, the last year figures were available.
Arkansas, California, Delaware, Michigan and New Jersey had the highest percentages of interstate miles in poor condition.

The condition of bridges on interstate highways improved. In 1996, 25% of interstate bridges were rated as either structurally deficient or functionally obsolete. That dropped to 21% in 2001.
The states with the highest percentage of deficient bridges were California, Michigan, Oklahoma, Rhode Island and Utah.

Demand light rail!
Dean Jerry Church.
I have received and carefully studied your "Preliminary" Transportation Improvement Program for the OCARTS Transportation Management Area  FFy2005-FFY 2007 and have found it to be seriously deficient.
There is little to no indication that ACOG has given serious consideration to the need for passenger rail transport for Central Oklahoma.  This is inexcuseable to the point of being negligent of the duties of your organization.
Zach Taylor, your organization's director, is aware of ODOTs plan to raze the railyard of Oklahoma City's Union Station.  He has been aware for a number of years and yet has not publically raised a voice of objection to that ill-conceived plan which will destroy any mass-transport, rail options for our area into the forseeable future without outrageous expense to the taxpayers for the purchase of new rights-of-way and construction of a new facility.  The facility at Union Station is perfectly located (after all, we can't expect a light-rail system to deliver passengers to the front doors of Bricktown businesses).  It is designed as an intermodal hub to connect all Central Oklahoma cities and towns with one another, as well as giving all citizens access to any destination in the USA that is served by AMTRAK, as well as to many, many points in OKC... Will Rogers Airport, Tinker Field, State Capitol, OKC Zoo, Fairgrounds, etc.
Any proposal or plan put forth by ACOG that fails to adequately include inclusion of passenger rail service for all of Central Oklahoma, is not a serious plan designed for ALL the citizens (especially seniors, handicapped, commuters and low-income).
Please see that my comments are made a part of your public input.
Thank you.
Sample letter ro ACOG site; change wording a little!
According to this new report, Oklahoma is part of the second worst region in the nation for elder mobility. What are Central Oklahoma leaders doing about it? The new downtown OKC transit bus transfer station is blocks and blocks away from other transport terminals. Even tiny Gainesville, Texas - a north Texas city of less than 15,000 - beats this.