Cities supporting a grass-roots effort to save the rail lines at Oklahoma City’s Union Station apparently are being bullied into changing their minds, according to advocates with Oklahomans for New Transportation Alternatives Coalition (OnTrac).
During a press conference Monday morning, officials with the group accused Department of Transportation Director Gary Ridley of issuing veiled threats to communities that want to see the Crosstown Expressway re-routed to save the tracks at Union Station. Eventually, if passenger rail service begins the station could serve as a hub.
Rep. Wallace Collins, D-Norman and former Norman City Council member Richard Stawicki said ODOT officials did not react kindly to a move by the Norman city council to support efforts to save the station. Norman is one of four cities that currently has adopted a resolution to save Union Station.
Stawicki called ODOT officials, “arrogant bureaucrats that threaten elected officials.” Collins recounted a 7 a.m. Saturday meeting held after the city council approved the measure in which Ridley discussed road projects in the Norman area and suggested that the Lindsey Street exit could be closed and other road projects put in jeopardy.
“We took that as not a very veiled threat,” Collins said.
A videographer from ODOT was rolling tape during OnTrac’s press conference, and that may have been reviewed by ODOT officials staffers before their 4 p.m. press conference.
At the afternoon press conference, Ridley said he was “disappointed folks made that comment.”
“I can honestly say that the Department or myself never engaged in pressure tactics or anything of the sort,” Ridley said. “That’s totally false. ”
Ridley pointed out that ODOT had increased funding for projects in Norman and highlighted efforts to improve the look of overpasses and signs.
“We’re trying to do everything we can to help with projects on I-35, Highway 77 and Highway 9-East,” Ridley said.