OKC preparing ordinances for start of streetcar system

Published Friday, April 7, 2017
by Brian Brus

Journal Record

OKLAHOMA CITY – City officials are already laying the groundwork for streetcar ordinances and business development along the downtown route before it starts running at the end of 2018.

Embark spokesman Michael Scroggins said the Oklahoma City transit authority is working with several other departments and agencies such as public works and development services to work out new permitting standards and the legal department on drafting new ordinance language.

Embark is the business unit of the Central Oklahoma Transportation and Parking Authority.

City Hall is even looking at how a streetcar line will affect planning for special events such as 5K runs and arts festivals, he said. Traffic rights of way and parking are at the top of the list.

“What happens if they park on the tracks? We’re going to need some sort of tow-and-fine procedure in place,” he said. “We want as much of this settled as possible before it starts up.”

The streetcar is one of several major projects under the $777 million MAPS 3 sales tax, which includes a new convention center and central park along the streetcar route. City Hall has been seeking feedback from residents and business operators in the area over the last couple of years to determine the greatest benefit with the least disruption.

Scroggins said disruption ordinances must include establishing a safety zone or envelope around the streetcar lines. Rules elsewhere in the country suggest a minimum distance of 10 feet: Work planned within that range anywhere in the system requires that each person involved must go through a special certification program first.

The ADG architectural firm, which is running the installation of the streetcar, is following a map of its own in plotting out traffic detours and minimizing business impacts, company spokeswoman Kristen Torkelson said.

“The contractor has been really good about making the smallest footprint possible for construction,” Torkelson said. “And if there’s no work at the time, they move all the traffic controls off the street and reopen lanes as soon as possible to keep things moving. Feedback has been very positive so far.”

The Alliance for Economic Development of Oklahoma City is also involved, determining the best feedback measures to identify development near the streetcar route, according to a spokeswoman for the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber. Scroggins and other city leaders said they expect the $132 million project will influence how business plans grow, which will require policy adjustments in how downtown builds out.

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