Oklahoma City transformation continues with help from TIGER
Oklahoma City is enjoying a renaissance that began when our residents chose to invest in the quality of life of our community. Over the past two decades, the people of Oklahoma City have voted to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in cultural amenities, schools and infrastructure designed to revitalize our community and make it a destination of choice for young, creative professionals and the jobs they attract.
These highly educated, highly mobile young people value communities with rich cultural, sports and entertainment offerings , a walkable urban environment, and access to public transportation.
In regard to Oklahoma City’s vision for public transportation, the $13.6 million TIGER grant from the Department of Transportation is a game changer. It’s an opportunity to accelerate our efforts to develop a comprehensive regional transit system that meets the expectations of our residents and the needs of a 21st Century City.
We began this process in 2005 with the creation of a Fixed Guideways Study, which laid out a blueprint for a 21st Century transit system that includes buses, bus rapid transit and rail-based transit. In 2009, the residents passed a penny sales tax with an expectation that, among other projects, we would build a streetcar system.
We also identified a historic train depot as a focal point for our re-imagined public transit system. The future intermodal hub will serve the entire Oklahoma City metropolitan area and provide connectivity for local bus, bus rapid transit, intercity bus, modern streetcar, commuter rail, Amtrak and potential high speed rail.
The federal grant is for the acquisition and redevelopment of the Santa Fe Depot into the Santa Fe Intermodal Station. The City of Oklahoma City, Association of Central Oklahoma Governments and Oklahoma Department of Transportation are providing combined matching funds of $14.8 million toward the total project cost of $28.4 million.
The federal funding allows for extensive redevelopment of the facility and will enable the City to improve pedestrian access to and around the facility, including a more pedestrian-friendly EK Gaylord Boulevard.
In the weeks ahead, we will vote to approve a route for a new $120-million modern streetcar system approved and funded by our citizens and we will debut a more efficient bus service that better meets the needs to its riders.
We are nearing the 20th anniversary of a visionary vote by our residents that dramatically reshaped Oklahoma City. Our residents passed a penny sales tax increase that funded a downtown ballpark, a canal through our entertainment district, a sports arena, a new downtown library and river improvements that ultimately resulted in a U.S. Olympic rowing training center.
A second such vote renovated or rebuilt some 70 Oklahoma City schools and provided technology upgrades for others. In 2009, our residents passed a third initiative that is funding neighborhood senior wellness centers, hike and bike trails and new sidewalks throughout the city, a 70-acre downtown park, a new convention center and the modern streetcar.
The Tiger grant enables us to leverage the investment made by our residents to create a public transportation system that meets and exceeds their vision for public transit in Oklahoma City.
Mick Cornett is currently serving his third term as Mayor of Oklahoma City. Earlier this year, Newsweek magazine named him one of America’s five most innovative mayors and Governing magazine named him one of 2010’s Public Officials of the Year.