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Thread: In this thread we discuss moving the Crosstown

  1. #1
    Patrick Guest

    Default In this thread we discuss moving the Crosstown

    Obviously the Crosstown will be moved....benefit will be that it will open up land for expansion of downtown to the south. Drabacks will be that it will destroy part of the Union Station Railyard. What are your thoughts?

    Tom Elmore states that it would be cheaper to redeck the existing Crosstown bridge. Although I don't deny that, I think he's overlooking another point of moving the Crosstown........today it's currently serving much more traffic than what it was ever designed for. We simply need more lanes and expanded shoulders/merging areas. His argument is that trucks that cause the most damage to the Crosstown should be encouraged to use other routes such as I-240. I simply can't see truck drivers taking an alternative route through OKC, a route that would only add time to their route. I suppose we could force them to take the I-35/I-240 route and bypass the Crosstown, but do we really want more traffic at an already congested I-35/I-240 interchange?

    "City leaders foresee I-40 biz payoffs
    by Jeff Latzke
    Associated Press

    Congress' passage of $130 million more in funding to relocate Interstate 40 in Oklahoma City has officials here envisioning everything from a golf course to new urban housing in an expanding downtown area.
    Roy Williams has heard it all. As executive director of the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber, he's heard from parties interested in building a sports complex or even a giant green space similar to New York City's Central Park once the interstate is knocked off its stilts and moved five blocks south.

    As it stands now, the high-rise buildings, convention center and arena that make up downtown Oklahoma City are all north of I-40. By moving the freeway south, more land adjacent to the downtown area will be opened for development. A downtown boulevard will be built along the old path.

    "Right now, the interstate is perceived as a sort of barrier," Williams said. "Downtown is not south of the interstate. It's north of the interstate."

    The $130 million in the transportation bill, which is awaiting President Bush's approval, would place Oklahoma more than $300 million on its way to funding the $360 million project. The state Department of Transportation awarded the project's first contract last week.

    While the economic impact of the project may be significant, the primary reason for relocating this four-mile section of highway called the Crosstown Expressway is motorist safety. When the section of I-40 between Interstates 44 and 35 was built, officials believed the Crosstown would never carry more than 76,000 vehicles per day, said John Bowman, a project development engineer for the Transportation Department. It's now carrying about 119,000 each day.

    Interstate 40 is one of the nation's main east-west links.

    The Transportation Department breaks the Crosstown into seven segments. Of those, six are rated "critically high" in terms of the number of accidents.

    The new highway will have 10 lanes, four more than the current freeway. It will have wider shoulders to provide drivers more room for error and more space between exits to give motorists additional space for accelerating and merging.

    Most of the new stretch of highway will be at ground level instead of elevated and replace a layout that has too many curves to meet today's standards.

    "We talk about safety, and there are some real concerns for us there," Bowman said.

    Tom Elmore, executive director of the North American Transportation Institute in Moore, has taken issue with the picture of the Crosstown the Transportation Department has painted.

    He disputes transportation officials' claims that a new Interstate 40 and a downtown boulevard can be built for less than it would cost to simply upgrade the current highway. And he questions the drive to build another highway at a time when the Transportation Department has millions of dollars in backlogged projects.

    He contends the Crosstown could be redecked for less than $50 million, and that it could be done without unnecessarily disrupting the rail yard at Union Station, which he envisions as the ideal hub for a light rail system in the state.

    "It amounts to robbery of future generations to stuff the pockets of the special interests, and it limits Oklahoma's transportation options for the foreseeable future," Elmore said.

    Transportation officials say that the Union Station building will not be affected, but a cap will be placed on a tunnel linking passengers and freight to three platforms in the rail yard. In the event that Oklahoma City adds a light rail service, Bowman said those tunnels could be uncapped and used again.

    However, he said Oklahoma City officials have indicated they prefer to use a different transit hub that is nearer to the Bricktown entertainment district and that transportation officials consider easier to connect with the airport area if necessary.

    "One of the things we looked at was how that would impact rail service in the future," Bowman said.

    Elmore says transportation officials didn't take the potential of Union Station into consideration when they were considering how to deal with the aging interstate.

    "The power of this facility is that our existing corridors for this complex are so incredibly good that it could literally vault us to the leading edge of the modern transportation competition in the West within a few years," Elmore said. "Without it, we're starting from ground zero. We've got nothing to start with."

    Garl Latham, principal of Dallas-based railroad consulting firm Latham Railway Services, said Union Station is in a unique position for Oklahoma City because all rail lines were routed to serve it.

    Railroad lines from the station connect to Will Rogers World Airport and to the Mustang and Tuttle areas that were among the fastest growing in recent census data. Beyond that, the rail lines run northeast to Tulsa, north to Edmond and Guthrie, east through Shawnee to the Arkansas border and west through Yukon to the Texas Panhandle.

    "It shows such a total lack of vision ...," Latham said of the Crosstown relocation. "As little as 10 to 15 years down the road, people in Oklahoma City will be kicking themselves."

    One thing Elmore does not dispute is the belief that moving the interstate would lead to economic development south of the current downtown area. But he said adding light-rail service - as cities including Dallas and Denver did using their Union Stations as hubs - would help alleviate parking and traffic problems.

    "Here's the key reason that this moment in time is so important," Elmore said. "We are now surrounded by Western cities with highly successful transit. They've been tested, tried and people love them so much that people consistently fund them with new bond initiatives and other funding.

    "They wouldn't do that if they didn't want them."

    Oklahoma City's downtown area has already been revitalized once. The passage of MAPS, a $238 million tax increase, helped turn an abandoned warehouse district into the now-bustling Bricktown area.

    Frank Sims, executive director of the Bricktown Association, said moving the Crosstown could lead to another revitalization - in part because of a new six-lane boulevard that will be built at ground level where Interstate 40 currently runs. Transportation officials envision the boulevard providing easier, safer access to the downtown area.

    "We believe it's going to be a real boon to the area," Sims said.

    Williams, the chamber director, said Oklahoma City residents may know their way around the city, but visitors struggle to know where to exit from the elevated highway to get where they want to go.

    "It will make downtown much easier and simple," Williams said. "When you have a high-rise interstate, you see it down there, but you don't know how to get there.""

  2. #2

    Default Re: In this thread we discuss moving the Crosstown

    Tom Elmore appears to be very short-sighted. I-40 is in desperate need of upgrade and expansion. "Re-decking" as a solution is just plain absurd.

  3. #3

    Default Re: In this thread we discuss moving the Crosstown

    Interesting points. Elmore is right that we are pissing away a great infrastructure around which to build a public transit system. He is right that it lacks a lot of vision in that regard and the added expense of building a new infrastructure and hub will delay public transit in form of a light rail system farther into the future, putting us father behind many cities.

    But I also agree with Scribe, he's ideas of I-40 are short-sighted as well and redecking wouldn't solve a lot of the concerns with the road. It's a pretty sketchy stretch of road that I don't think will be fixed just by making it a nicer ride. The obvious solution would be to design the new freeway to preserve our rail infrastructure. But that must have been too expensive. I don't remember what was considered. I think they were actually going to tear down the whole building at one point. Maybe this is the compromise. I do know that the old guard is very scared of public transit and has a weird perception of it that leads to it getting little consideration.

    "When you have a high-rise interstate, you see it down there, but you don't know how to get there.""
    That's a good point, but with the new freeway, one of the drawbacks will be that you're not going to see it at all.

    I also think that it's interesting that people think moving the freeway will help downtown "grow". I'm thinking it's just going to help it spread out. Not the best thing when trying to create urban density.

  4. #4

    Default Re: In this thread we discuss moving the Crosstown

    I used to commute on that stretch of freeway and always hated the lack of shoulders, heavy traffic and way-too-short on ramps. Plus, I've always thought it was ugly, especially from Bricktown (and not to mention noisy).

    However, I loved drivig so close by the skyline and the great views that afforded. And I do worry about the loss of the railroad infrastructure, although the Union Station location does not lend itself well for commuter/light rail.

    Generally, I think the good will out-weight the bad. I'm hoping the area between the boulevard and the new freeway will eventually see a boom of new development or redevelopment.

  5. #5

    Default Re: In this thread we discuss moving the Crosstown

    although the Union Station location does not lend itself well for commuter/light rail.
    probably not. Unless downtown did grow into it.

    I drive it everyday and really the scariest things is people that don't understand that you yield when merging onto a freeway and that yielding usually requires to make sure no one is coming. We have that problem everywhere in OKC, but giving the short visual sight lines there it compounds the problem.

    Now maybe it's just because I use it a lot, but there also seems to be a lot more crap on the road there. I get stuff hitting my windshield more there than anywhere else.

  6. #6

    Default Re: In this thread we discuss moving the Crosstown

    There are a couple of on-ramps where people frequently stop at the top because there is not enough roadway to merge properly.

    That's incredibly dangerous in itself, but then the problem really compounds when cars have to go from a dead stop to freeway speeds in a very short distance.

    I'm sure they could have reengineered these ramps and added width but I'm also sure that probably would have been at least as expensive but far more disrruptive.

    The HUGE advantage of the new route is that it can be built with concurrent use of the present stretch and then traffic merely diverted when the time comes. Considering the volume on that stretch, that's no small difference.

  7. #7

    Default Re: In this thread we discuss moving the Crosstown

    Bad, bad idea that we can apparently do nothing about. Thanks, Istook!

    Why bad?

    1. The best advertising we had as a city was the elevated view of downtown OKC from I-40. Now guess what? The new I-40 will be built at ground level with walls on either side obscuring the view of our city! What a joke!

    2. Now that it's taken us a mere 40 years to infill our downtown to I-40's current location, just add another 20 plus to infill the slums it will now inhabit. Brilliant!

    3. We have existing rail infrastructure in place, right now, to add a commuter rail line (it's left over from the commuter rail line we used to have), and all we would need to do is upgrade some track and put cars on it and we have a light rail systems. Thanks to the obsessive hatred of rail systems that Mr. Istook seems to have, we're going to tear it down. How is this good? If we should need or desire to add rail to our transportation options, we will have no existing infrastructure, meaning the costs of adding said rail would likely be beyond reality.

    I'm really boiling now that everyone has decided to "get on board" and declare the new I-40 a boon for OKC. It's not. Just think of all the passing motorists who will now only see the barren, scarred landscape out by Meridian and the airport and determine that's what OKC looks like.

    It's a debacle that has been shoved down our throats because Istook wouldn't get the money to do it right. He was too busy apparently hooking Salt Lake City up with a sweet rail transportation system.

  8. #8

    Default Re: In this thread we discuss moving the Crosstown

    Fair points, soonerguru.

    I will miss the view that the current Crosstown provides. It's nice to drive by and see over the new and improving areas of downtown.

    But given the choice, I would rather we get a new Crosstown freeway than continue to work around the current crumbling one.

  9. #9
    pdjr Guest

    Default Re: In this thread we discuss moving the Crosstown

    As is, I-40 is dangerous and horribly congested many times when it shouldn't be. I'm bracing for the next bump, not looking at the skyline unless I'm east of Lincoln or west of Villa.

    If I had my druthers, I'd opt to re-deck and extensively widen it in its present location (and close some entrances/exits on both sides), yet am encouraged with the prospect of a tree-lined boulevard/corridor to the entire downtown/Bricktown area.

    Those cars whizzing by don't generate much tax revenue. Throw up some I-40 Business signs, jazz 'em up with references to the varied entertainment, sports, cultural and shopping options, and make the proposed boulevard a destination drive for locals and visitors alike.

  10. #10

    Default Re: In this thread we discuss moving the Crosstown

    I do not understand the passion for the light rail system that people in this forum seem to be up in arms about. I certainly don't have a crystal ball that tells me there will ever be a real need for it in a population that is of such a light density. There seem to be members here that think OKC can become the urban mecca that they want it to become, but I cannot see that happening. Why would anyone want to build more skyscrappers here? The trend seems to be that large corporations want to have their own campus, such as Chesapeake Energy and Dell or in office parks such as the one north of Memorial Rd. and between Portland and May Avenues. Will light rail require the building of tracks to these campus and building parks or will it just be feasible to have service from surrounding comunities to downtown? I can not see that many wanting to ride the train and I can't see the rest of us appreciating the service due to the increased number of trains passing through the city causing more traffic stops at train crossings.

    I would like to think that I don't have a closed mind and am not to old yet to still learn, so maybe a few of the more enlightened out there can point out the errors in my thinking.

  11. #11

    Default Re: In this thread we discuss moving the Crosstown

    Office parks and urban living / development are far from mutually exclusive concepts. The model cities often mentioned here have plenty of both.

    And you mention Cheseapeake but remember that Devon occupies tons of downtown office space and seems dedicated to the area.

    There is a certain slice of the population that prefers the community of more urban living: being able to walk to places, interacting with your neighbors, being close to cultural resources, etc. And this is something OKC just doesn't offer much of at this point -- certainly not to the level of the pent-up demand.

    And and a vibrant city center has massive benefits even to those that don't live in the area. It allows for concentration of human and capital resources for the greater good of the entire community and gives a city a sense of pride and togetherness.

    As for light rail, most cities of our size and some even smaller have or are planning such systems. Forget Memorial Road and think about linking the airport, the Meridian hotel corridor, the fairgrounds, the stockyards, the River, downtwon, the HSC, the capital, the zoo, the CBHOF, etc. It might not happen for decades, but at some point such a system would make sense and there is concern about destroying infrastructure that would make it much more economically feasible.

  12. #12

    Default Re: In this thread we discuss moving the Crosstown


    Light rail feasibility is what I am questioning, not urban living development. Urban living appeals to me and I have and am considering it. I look forward to seeing downtown provide more housing. I look forward to seeing more entertainment venues developed downtown. It is very hard for me to see the business district downtown growing. You mention Devon and it's commitment to downtown, however Devon is a public company and like Kerr McGee it is just one hostile takeover away from being moved to Houston. Also, unlike Kerr Mcgee, it does not own the real estate it occupies, thus making it even easier to relocate.

    You talk about linking several locations with light rail and some of the areas have tracks now, but where would you put the tracks to link the others? Would we have to buy up million of dollars worth o real estate like we have with the new crosstown or would we shut down city streets for them? You mention saving the infrastructure for when there might be a need in the future, but how viable would that infrasturcture be after another thirty or forty years of aging?

  13. #13

    Default Re: In this thread we discuss moving the Crosstown


    You are correct that our density at the moment probably doesn't justify light rail. We are all hoping, however, that we will have increased density in the future. If so, we may have a need for some alternative transportation options.

    As it stands now, our public transit system is an embarassment for a city our size.

    Good public transit is a factor that directly correlates with a city's image.

    If we want to keep being good ol' Oklahoma City forever, perhaps you are right.

    Maybe our last two big companies downtown will leave us, and the tumbleweeds will blow across the road.

    Or maybe as a city we'll get hip to doing things that look toward the future for a change, and consider a future with more options than we currently have.

    If the prevailing view in OKC continues to be "That will never work here," we are probably already screwed and I should consider relocating to a city where such an attitude isn't the norm.

  14. #14

    Default Re: In this thread we discuss moving the Crosstown


    You mention that the prevailing view in OKC being "That will never work here" and that has merit, however the truth is that a lot of things will not work here on the scale that we would like to see, if at all. To me, if we want downtown OKC to grow we need to provide in downtown what is attractive to companies building on the outskirts right now, such as the areas for a corporate campus or a business park such as the one north of Memorial which has been seeing a lot of growth recently. It would make my day to see the old cotton gin on the south side of the crosstown torn down or relocated and the infrastucture put in place for a business park. I would support a maps type program that included that goal as one of the features of a new maps effort. We need to give business a reason to develop downtown again and to me this is where our thinking about the future needs to be concentrated currently. I do however admit that I could be wrong.

  15. #15

    Default Re: In this thread we discuss moving the Crosstown

    Popsy, this was the specific comment I was addressing:

    There seem to be members here that think OKC can become the urban mecca that they want it to become, but I cannot see that happening. Why would anyone want to build more skyscrappers here?

    And the infrastructure I mentioned was more to do with right-of-way than anything else. Once you lose that, it's very, very hard and expensive to recover.

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