The Oklahoma City Council on Tuesday agreed on a route for the $94.4 million downtown streetcar, one of the biggest of the voter-approved MAPS 3 construction projects.
Voters approved MAPS 3 in 2009, agreeing to a penny sales tax increase to promote economic development.
The 4.6-mile modern streetcar line is to run in a loop through Oklahoma City's central business district. It will tie together the fast-growing MidTown business and residential district and the Bricktown entertainment district.
Coupled with the Bricktown Landing boat dock and trails, the streetcar will create a link -- via rail, boat, bicycle and on foot -- to the Boathouse District and beyond, opening the Oklahoma River to further development.
"I think it will kick off the next 20 years of growth in our city," said Nathaniel Harding, chairman of a MAPS 3 streetcar advisory panel that worked several years to craft the proposed route.
The route would connect downtown's transit center, Automobile Alley and MidTown, the planned MAPS 3 convention center, a new transit hub at the old Santa Fe Depot, and the Chesapeake Energy Arena, home of the NBA's Thunder. Tracks would come within a block of the planned MAPS 3 downtown park.
Rails would be laid on sections of Sheridan and Reno avenues, NW 10 and NW 11 streets, and Broadway, Robinson and Hudson avenues. Consultants included a couple of minor options that could alter the route slightly.
The streetcar is set to begin operations in 2017. Total costs, including a garage and an extension planned later, are expected to run $128.8 million.
Modern streetcars share the streets with cars. They generally are powered by electricity from overhead wires.
The prospect of wires cluttering downtown streets has drawn criticism, prompting consultants to keep options open. Some hybrid streetcars can run part of their routes on batteries.
Tuesday's vote was 5-3.
Ward 1 Councilman James Greiner, Ward 2 Councilman Ed Shadid and Ward 4 Councilman Pete White voted against the proposal.
Ward 6 Councilwoman Meg Salyer, who owns downtown property that may be served by the streetcar, excused herself from the debate and did not vote.
Mayor Mick Cornett and council members Larry McAtee (Ward 3), David Greenwell (Ward 5), John A. Pettis Jr. (Ward 7) and Pat Ryan (Ward 8) voted yes.
Before the vote, about 20 citizens spoke, divided nearly evenly between advocates and opponents of the route.
Many opponents favored a route between downtown and the Oklahoma Health Center in northeast Oklahoma City.
"This city does not work without northeast Oklahoma City," said the Rev. Jesse Jackson Jr., pastor of the East Sixth Street Christian Church.
White has long said he favored a route that would move transit riders from place to place rather than in a 25-minute circle.
"This is the route that serves people who don't have to ride it," White said. For the money, he said, "We'd be better off giving them a pass on a taxi."
Copyright 2013 - The Oklahoman, Oklahoma City