Our work goes on

2009 September 9
by OnTrac

Greetings OnTrac Members:

The Executive Board would like to express its appreciation to each of you for supporting our efforts this last year to ensure Oklahoma’s rail transit future. Thanks to you, we have succeeded in bringing rail transit to the forefront of local, regional and state issues and have helped lay the groundwork for moving Oklahoma forward into the 21st century of transportation.

The following is an update on a number of important issues:

1) OnTrac LLC

In July, OnTrac’s Executive Board approved a motion to formally incorporate the organization as a not-for-profit Oklahoma Limited Liability Company. As part of the reorganization, in August the Executive Board appointed a Nominating Committee to select a Board of Directors for the new organization. In addition, formal bylaws will be drafted and approved by the new Board. The new Board will appoint an Executive Committee to manage the functions of the organization. Currently, the following individuals have been appointed to the new Board:

  • Tom Sherman (President Elect, Norman Chamber of Commerce)
  • Mary Francis (Oklahoma League of Woman Voters)
  • Bill Nations (Oklahoma State Representative)
  • Charles Wesner (Chair, Oklahoma Chapter of the Sierra Club)
  • Debbie Blackburn (Former Oklahoma State Representative)
  • Tom Kovach (Norman City Councilmember – Transportation Committee)
  • Dr. Kim Mish (OU Professor of Civil Engineering)
  • Garl Latham (President, Latham Railway Services – Former D.A.R.T. Planner)
  • Susan McCann (Chair, Change Oklahoma)
  • Isaiah McCaslin (Norman Sustainability Network – Steering Committee)
  • Wallace Collins (Oklahoma State Representative)
  • Gail Poole (Graphic Designer)
  • Marion Hutchison (President, Titan Energy Corporation)

Additional appointments to the Board will be announced soon. Concurrent with the appointment of the new Board, the Executive Board approved the dissolution of the former OnTrac.

The mission of OnTrac LLC is to ensure Oklahoma’s rail transit future by working in partnership with state and local governments, public and private organizations, and the citizenry to create and expand rail transit opportunities throughout the state.

Members of the former OnTrac will automatically be included as members of the new OnTrac unless a request is received to not be a member. If you do not wish to be a member of the new OnTrac, please send an email requesting removal to:

membership@ontracok.org

We encourage everyone to remain as members of the new OnTrac and to continue to support our efforts to make rail transit a reality in Oklahoma.

2) Union Station

While OnTrac has made a tremendous impact on public and political awareness of the value and need for rail transit, we have been unable to achieve one of our goals, which was to preserve the Oklahoma City Union Station terminal facility as a rail transit hub for the Oklahoma City metropolitan area. We realized when we undertook this final effort to save the facility more than a year ago that we faced an enormous challenge given the fact that construction on the new Crosstown Expressway was already underway. However, we were determined to exhaust all options that might allow the railyard to be spared and the Crosstown completed much as planned. More than a year later, we believe OnTrac has made every effort possible to find a workable solution to this problem. Unfortunately, time is no longer on our side for implementing an alternative plan.

Following a ruling in favor of BNSF Railway Company in June by the federal Surface Transportation Board authorizing certain rail line abandonments associated with the project, the Oklahoma Transportation Commission approved the necessary contracts in August allowing construction of the central section of the new Crosstown through the Union Station railyard area to proceed. While OnTrac views this outcome as unfortunate and regrettable, we are committed and resolved to working cooperatively with state and local officials to find an alternative solution for a rail transit hub that can effectively service a future rail transit system for the Oklahoma City metropolitan area and Central Oklahoma.

3) ACOG Regional Transit Dialogue

In May, the Association of Central Oklahoma Governments began a series of official meetings regarding transit entitled the Regional Transit Dialogue. The RTD was designed to bring together officials, planners and other representatives from the various Oklahoma City metropolitan area municipalities for an ongoing collaborative effort to discuss numerous subjects related to development of a regional transit system, including governance, financing, technical and land use. Much of the focus of the RTD is on development and operation of a regional rail transit system. A number of OnTrac Board members are participating in the RTD, including Tom Sherman (Finance Subcommittee), Bill Nations (Governance Subcommittee), Marion Hutchison (Technical/Land Use Subcommittee) and Dr. Kim Mish (Technical/Land Use Subcommittee). We are encouraged by the efforts being made by ACOG and the participating metropolitan area municipalities to take the first steps towards development of a regional transit authority, which is a necessary requirement for developing a regional rail transit system. OnTrac will continue to support this and other efforts that move us closer to that goal.

4) ACOG TIGER Grant Application

In August, the Association of Central Oklahoma Governments announced that it will apply for federal TIGER grants for the purposes of obtaining funding for developing certain components of a commuter rail system for the Oklahoma City metropolitan area, including possible rail corridors between Edmond, Norman, Midwest City and Oklahoma City. OnTrac supports these and other efforts to develop commuter rail opportunities as part of a regional rail transit system.

5) ODOT 2035 Long Range Plan

In April, the Oklahoma Department of Transportation began the review process for its 2035 Long Range Plan, an 18-month study that will serve as a guide to develop the state’s transportation system to promote better mobility in and around Oklahoma communities for the next 20 years. The study will address roads, bridges, transit, rail facilities, airport access, ports, pedestrians & cyclists. The goal of the study is to develop a statewide transportation plan that responds to future needs including improvements that will enhance both transportation and economic development of the State of Oklahoma through 2035. OnTrac Board member Charles Wesner is participating in the study. OnTrac supports ODOT’s efforts to develop a comprehensive, long range transportation plan for Oklahoma.

6) ODOT High Speed Rail Grant Application

In August, the Oklahoma Department of Transportation announced that it would be applying for $2 billion of federal grant money as part of the Obama administration’s efforts to develop high speed passenger rail transit in certain designated areas of the country. ODOT’s plan would extend service from Tulsa to Oklahoma City and on to the Texas state line and would provide service with top speeds between the state’s two major cities of more than 150 mph. Texas, for its part, is applying for funding that would extend high speed rail service from the Oklahoma border to Dallas to Austin to San Antonio. OnTrac supports ODOT’s efforts to develop high speed rail and other rail transit opportunities for the citizens of Oklahoma.

7) Intermodal Rail Transit Hub Study

Officials from ODOT, ACOG and Oklahoma City metropolitan area municipalities are discussing plans to undertake an Intermodal Rail Transit Hub Study to determine the necessary requirements for developing a rail transit hub to effectively service a regional rail transit system. In addition to evaluating the specific technical requirements for such a facility, the study would most likely also include site recommendations, as well as preliminary designs. OnTrac is strongly supporting this effort, as a viable central rail hub is the cornerstone for an effective regional rail transit system.

8 ) Oklahoma City Light Rail Circulator

Oklahoma City officials are considering including as part of a MAPS 3 initiative the development of a light rail circulator for the downtown area. The modern street car system would likely circulate through the Central Business District, Core to Shore, Bricktown, the Health Sciences Center and the Capitol complex, and would be designed to connect to and service a future rail transit hub. OnTrac strongly supports Oklahoma City’s efforts to develop a light rail circulator, as it is a key component along with a central rail transit hub for developing an effective regional rail transit system.

While we are disappointed that our efforts to save Union Station’s railyard have not been successful, our hard work is making a significant difference in the future of rail transit for Oklahoma. We are encouraged by the new direction, cooperative discussions and numerous rail transit initiatives that are now taking place between ODOT, ACOG and Oklahoma City metropolitan area municipalities. We now have the opportunity to work together toward a common goal of developing a regional rail transit system to effectively serve the citizens of Central Oklahoma. OnTrac is committed to ensuring we don’t let that opportunity pass us by. We encourage our members to continue to support our efforts to ensure Oklahoma’s rail transit future.

Watch for more updates on these and other important rail transit issues.

Thanks for your support!!!

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