The first formally proposed full route of the downtown Oklahoma City modern streetcar has arrived now that the locations of other MAPS 3 projects are known.
The Citizen Advisory Board presented the city council with its preferred route for the streetcar, including a proposed southern route for the first time. The board's transit subcommittee had held off on vetting the southern portion of the route until the locations of the MAPS 3 convention center and intermodal transportation hub were known.
In recent months, the council decided upon the site of an old Ford dealership west of Chesapeake Energy Arena for the convention center, and the Santa Fe Train Depot will be the site of the transit hub. The southern portion takes that into account, along with residential areas on the east side of the train tracks.
“This helps assure that there's coordination between the convention center, the new downtown park, Myriad Gardens park and with the residential area north of Bricktown,” said Mike Mize of consultancy Architectural Design Group, which is organizing elements of MAPS 3.
Jeff Bezdek, a member of the transit subcommittee, told the council that planning involved discussions with other MAPS 3 project subcommittees and stakeholders around downtown.
“One thing that kept coming up was needing to touch the park, having a stop right at the park and the new convention center,” he said.
Questions on future
Councilman Ed Shadid led several council members in expressing hope that integration with other long-term transportation projects is a part of the streetcar's plans, including how the state Transportation Department is including it in the boulevard that will replace the old Interstate 40 alignment and bridges accommodating rail traffic.
City Public Works Director Eric Wenger said there's still work to be done to decide what the streetcar and other elements of transportation downtown will look like, but planners are taking a long-term view.
“We have not selected things like track types or the power system for the car,” Wenger said.
“So there's a lot of planning we can do with ODOT at this point making sure we don't put ourselves into a corner, but at the same time we've got to wait for some of the consulting to occur so that we know exactly what it is that we're going to construct.”
Councilman David Greenwell also said he thinks the council should consider a route that better links hotels along Reno Avenue.
“(That would) allow us to utilize those hotel rooms to support the convention center,” he said.
Completion in 2021
Portions of the proposed route south of Sheridan Avenue and east of Broadway Avenue are double-tracked, with both directions of the streetcar running side by side.
The streetcar would then run north on Robinson Avenue before moving west to Midtown, coming back east to Broadway for the southbound trip downtown.
The city council will ultimately determine the streetcar's route.
Local public transportation advocates hope the streetcar proves popular enough to spur desire and funding for an expanded route network over time, possibly linking to a light commuter rail serving outlying areas and suburbs or future regional high-speed rail service.
The first phase of construction for the streetcar and transportation hub is scheduled to begin in 2014. Officials expect the project to be completed seven years later.