Some of the Washington money that conservative Oklahomans love to hate will roll into the state capital and facilitate a form of transportation that most Oklahomans have been reluctant to embrace.
A $13.6 million federal grant will help turn the downtown Santa Fe depot into an intermodal hub for mass transit, incorporating Amtrak (another taxpayer-subsidized transit system) with the streetcar plan envisioned by MAPS 3.
In a flurry of activity last week, city officials announced receipt of the grant and advancement of a plan to acquire the depot by eminent domain. What was once a thriving center of activity, when passenger rail service was in its heyday, will again be a destination for commuters and interstate travelers.
The city is using MAPS 3 money and grants from the Oklahoma Department of Transportation and the Association of Central Oklahoma Governments to leverage the federal grant. The depot, now in private ownership, will be acquired by taxpayers and restored. Better access to and from Bricktown is planned.
This is an exciting development in the transformation of Oklahoma City, one that will be even more significant if passenger rail is extended to Kansas and/or Tulsa. We hope the plans finally put to rest the complaints over the Interstate 40 relocation's effect on Union Station, another once-thriving train hub. Local rail fans insisted for years that Union's rail yard must be preserved as a future intermodal hub. We always thought the Santa Fe Depot was a better fit.
Still uncertain is whether the streetcar system will materialize as envisioned: City officials are under no legal obligation to build the system; wrangling has occurred over routes and the means by which the streetcars would be powered.
As for unease over taking Washington money for transit, most of us don't mind taking it when it comes to roads. A little piece for rail doesn't seem to be a bridge too far.