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Saturday, August 11, 10 a.m. at Union Station, S. Harvey and 7th St.
Elected officials, candidates and citizen activists to speak to save the Union Station railyards for future mass transit
OKLAHOMA CITY – Citizens from around the state will be gathering this Saturday at Oklahoma City’s Union Station for what they call a rally to “Save the Rails” network that crisscross Oklahoma and provide a ready-made solution to mass transit needs for the entire region. They are inviting all concerned citizens to join them to demand better transportation choices by our politicians and business leaders.
Confirmed to speak at the rally are State Senator Andrew Rice, Oklahoma state Representative Wallace Collins, Tom Elmore of North American Transportation Institute and Fannie Bates, candidate for Oklahoma County Commission
“The people’s needs and expressed desire for viable mass transit are not being considered,” said Ms. Bates, who is centering her campaign for the Oklahoma Country District 1 seat on the issue. Bates, a teacher with a masters in public health, will speak at the rally.
“This event is an opportunity for the people of the state to speak up for responsible government, safe highways and badly needed alternatives to the automobile,” said Tom Elmore, a long time activist for rail transport and one of the organizers of the event. “Using the state’s unique 900 mile network of publicly owned rail lines, OKC Union Station is the only hope baby boomers and older Oklahomans have of seeing a comprehensive, regional rail transit system in our lifetimes.”
Existing plans for the new CrossTown will pave over some of Oklahoma City’s important rail infrastructure and any future rail development will require untold expense to create what exists right now. Union Station, which was restored with tax funds, will become a “museum relic” if the rails don’t exist.
The current development path is extremely shortsighted, says Evan Stair, Executive Director of Passenger Rail Oklahoma. “now that we know the environmental cost of petroleum use, and the future value of rail transportation, it is crazy to pave existing rail lines to build a new highway!”
“The simple and inexpensive alternative is to route heavy trucks around Oklahoma City on the South Loop unless they are making OKC deliveries, then shore up and re-deck the existing I-40 overhead. This would save money, save the rails, make future rail use possible, permitting Oklahoma City to become a regional rail hub.”
Organizers say their goal is to focus community attention on the issue, and lobby public officials who are only listening to business interests. To this end, there will be literature and ideas for future action available for attenders.
Joni LeViness, of Tulsa, plans to bring a number of environmental and community activists from the east side of the state to the rally, saying the issue is a statewide and national one. “There needs to be a reformation and extension of public transit, that’s the only sane thing to do,” she said.
The rally will start at 10 AM at Union Station, 300 SW 7th St (corner of S. Harvey and 7th). After the rally, participants will be invited to walk to nearby Wheeler Park, which is itself set for destruction as part of the rerouting, for a BYO picnic lunch.
“It’s not too late,” says Ms. Bates, “Together, the citizens can prevent this development dead-end and help create a transportation system that will be the envy of the nation.”
For more information about the rally and the ongoing efforts to preserve Oklahoma’s railyards, see savetherailsok.org or call 404.794.7163.