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July 18, 2013

Commuter rail studied

NORMAN — A light rail or commuter rail system connecting central Oklahoma suburbs to downtown Oklahoma City has been top of mind for our city officials for many years. Norman has always been at the table seeking such a plan.

The Association of Central Oklahoma Governments is studying the issue with its Regional Transit Dialogue Steering Committee. They’ve been holding meetings throughout the metro area to receive input on what such a system would look like.

It’s an 18-month study, but the issue has been on the table for years. The $1.25 million “Commuter Rail Corridor Analysis” is being conducted by URS Corporation for ACOG.

A commuter rail won’t happen without participation from cities, the state and the federal government. The cost is estimated to be between $2 billion and $3 billion for a separate light rail line and between $200 million to $300 million for a commuter line that uses existing rails.

Some boosters have speculated that a regional tax authority with dedicated revenues could be formed. Voters would have to say yes before any decisions are made.

Without the federal government as a player, the issue is about as doable as making the Canadian River navigable. A Norman link could take commuters to downtown Oklahoma City or the Capitol and Health Sciences Center. Students, faculty and staff who choose to live outside of Norman could ride the rail to Norman, just as commuters did decades ago on the old Interurban line.

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