Oklahoma City's Crosstown Expressway, an elevated portion of Interstate 40 that zips (or sometimes crawls) past downtown, is going to be relocated about half a mile to the south; the old route will be torn down and replaced with some sort of "boulevard." According to ODOT, the price tag for all this was supposed to be something like $236 million, almost entirely in federal funds; then-Congressman Brad Carson, in a radio interview, said that the whole thing could be financed by the Federal Highway Trust Fund. Sounds like taxpayer money to me.
Downtown boosters, seeing an opportunity to scrape away some of the scuzzier areas just south of downtown (and, not incidentally, expand their turf), have generally embraced the New Crosstown, and their acceptance of ODOT's proposed realignment has been somewhere between uncritical and overly enthusiastic. Even I could possibly see the point were there some actual threat posed by the Old Crosstown. Yes, it's in less-than great shape; yes, it's carrying more than its design load. (In the 1960s, when this road was built, 70,000 vehicles a day were anticipated; today it's carrying half again as many.) But pavement is fixable, even in Oklahoma, and if the elevated portion were indeed dangerous, you'd think there'd be weight-limit signs at each end. There aren't.
More ominous, in the press release announcing the project, is the bald statement that this particular scheme is "the best way to handle the ever-growing I-40 traffic load with the least impact on the affected area." What about Union Station's rail yard? Nothing to see here, move along, says ODOT:
Union Station will not be directly impacted by the construction of I-40. The new interstate will be constructed to the south of the Union Pacific line, allowing the interstate and railroad to provide transportation services in the same corridor. The integrity of the Historic Train Station will be maintained as the Union Pacific line and will remain in place allowing it to serve as a passenger rail station if desired. The design will allow adequate space between the Union Pacific line and Union Station for a slip track for passenger loading.
Um, yeah. There's just one thing: there's already accomodation for passenger loading, for rail lines reaching throughout the Oklahoma City metro area. The new I-40 alignment reduces this to, well, room for a slip track.
In his State of the City address for 2007, Mayor Cornett came up with this:
Now, public transportation means different things to different people.