On Jan. 2, the council passed a project requirements document for the streetcar, but some members expressed reservations about the proposed route and stressed that it is in no way finalized. The council’s action means that the streetcar project consultant, Jacobs Engineering Group Inc., will coordinate its efforts with other MAPS 3 consultants, the Central Oklahoma Transportation & Parking Authority and other agencies as well as study operations and maintenance costs.
Jacobs is also seeking public input through meetings to be held within the next few months, said Mike Mize of Architectural Design Group, the main consultant for MAPS 3.
Ward 2 Councilman Ed Shadid said he was concerned that some on the streetcar subcommittee may wrongly believe the preferred route is final. He said that if Oklahoma City wants to keep with the 2006 Core to Shore Plan — which anticipates major redevelopment of the area between downtown and the Oklahoma River — it should use “the most powerful real estate development tool that [it has], and that is the streetcar.”
Ward 4 Councilman Pete White and Ward 7 Councilman Ronald “Skip” Kelly voiced support for MAPS 3 streetcar funds paying for an Adventure District line from downtown to near Remington Park and The Oklahoma City Zoo.
Ward 1 Councilman Gary Marrs said the process of determining the route has run counter to how the city normally works on such projects, in which experts and city staff examine options and bring them to the public oversight body.
“It seems like the opposite has happened and some public entity determined where they think it needs to be, and it’s kind of driving that way through the committee process,” Marrs said. “And city staff seems to be reluctant to stand in the way of it.”
But Ward 4 Councilwoman Meg Salyer said the public meetings held during the Alternatives Analysis phase have given the public a great deal of input.
Mize said that Jacobs is not working under the idea that the route is finalized. He said the consultant is looking at alternative routes and has subcontracted with a firm to examine economic development for the streetcar.
A tense meeting
Shadid defended Public Works Director Eric Wenger, whom he said had faced “relentless beratement” at a Dec. 19 streetcar subcommittee meeting over plans to renovate part of E. K. Gaylord Boulevard in front of the Santa Fe Depot, site of the future intermodal hub.
During that sometimes-contentious subcommittee meeting, panel members quizzed Wenger on plans for E. K. Gaylord under the Project 180 streetscape redesign initiative and criticized the city for not trying to better integrate streetcar plans into its work involving the Santa Fe station.
Wenger said the city is doing the best it can to integrate the two projects, but that timelines do not match up because a $750,000 federal grant must be spent within the federal fiscal year.
Subcommittee member Jeff Bezdek, who did much of the questioning, said he felt it was important that he and other members advocate for stronger integration of the two projects.
“I wasn’t advocating for the delay of Project 180,” Bezdek said. “I was advocating for the most integration to occur to save the taxpayer money.”