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Istook Stance May Kill Plan, Officials Say

Charolette Aiken Published: September 11, 1996
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While a downtown light rail system is critical to the success of the $297 million MAPS plan, city officials said Tuesday, Oklahoma City taxpayers may not be able to afford it if Rep. Ernest Istook blocks federal funding.

"We would have to come up with a plan outside of MAPS and I don't know yet how we would do that. We can't (afford) the $13 million or $15 million that it's going to take to do it," Mayor Ron Norick said.

City officials may have to consider a capital bond project to pay for the transportation link, he added. His comments came during a break in Tuesday's city council meeting.

Istook, R-Warr Acres, strongly opposes a plan now under consideration by a House-Senate Appropriations conference committee. That proposal could provide up to $13 million this year for the transportation project.

A day earlier, Istook told the chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee on transportation that the project is economically unsound.

City Councilman Jack Cornett on Tuesday termed Istook's attitude "totally negative" and urged the Congressman to reconsider his stance and "take a look at the city area he represents."

Istook criticized the MAPS fixed-rail trolley loop saying it would be "high in cost but low in passengers."

He opposes pork projects, he said.

In a statement released on Tuesday, Istook said the city transportation plan "is not a proper use of federal taxpayers money under the guise of mass transit."

At stake is a 2.7 mile track that would be laid on downtown streets as part of the Metropolitan Area Projects plan. The light rail system is expected to cost $16 million. Nine stops would be included in the downtown loop. The city has set aside $3 million in local tax revenue and wants Congress to appropriate the rest.

Mayor Norick said Istook has relied on outdated information.

"He does not have certain revenue streams projected to help cover operating costs. We have (about) 8,000 parking places operated by the city in the downtown area that we need to (use) better. If we can provide a very good circulator system that will allow people to park on special event nights, we are going to increase revenue on those parking garages," Norick said.

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