Senate committee hears testimony on Union Station

From The Journal Record:

Everyone asked to speak to state Senate members on Monday had opinions about what the state should do regarding the fate of the rail yard for Oklahoma City’s Union Station. What they didn’t have was an estimated cost to attach to their opinions.

Whatever it costs to alter the alignment of the Crosstown Expressway project will be a savings compared to what will be lost if the Crosstown project ruins Union Station’s yard, said Garl B. Latham, president of Latham Railway Services. Moving the proposed alignment for the new Crosstown just 300 feet would allow the new highway to avoid cutting through Union Station’s rail yard, taking out some of the tracks leading to the station.

Oklahoma Department of Transportation Director Gary Ridley disagreed. Delaying the Crosstown realignment project for the sake of again reworking the alignment is a dangerous proposition, he said, as the existing Crosstown structure should have been replaced years ago.

Latham worked for years for Dallas’ DART passenger rail system. Officials for Amtrak and the city of Dallas greatly underestimated how much room they would need to build a multi-modal transportation hub out of that city’s Union Station. The Dallas facility is close to the Hyatt hotel, which had sought to expand by purchasing more of the station’s property. Now the city would like to expand the train facility, but there is no more room.

“I would encourage anything that could be done,” said Latham. “It would be of no small significance to lose this asset.” A multi-modal hub would not only carry passengers, but would allow goods to be transferred from train to truck and vice versa – a feature impossible to build at Oklahoma City’s far-above-street-level Santa Fe Station. The Santa Fe Station lacks the land, the parking space, and many other amenities already in place at the Union Station.

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