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Regional mass transit authority ready to launch

The Journal Record

OKLAHOMA CITY – The state’s first multi-municipality transit authority will hold its inaugural meeting this month.

Development of the Regional Transportation Authority of Central Oklahoma has been in the works for about 12 years, although the Association of Central Oklahoma Governments formed a task force only three years ago, ACOG Executive Director Mark Sweeney said. Once the seven members of the board formally meet for the first time Feb. 20 at the downtown Santa Fe Station for the signing ceremony, ACOG will pull back but continue to provide administrative support.

Under the group’s charter, each of the participating municipal governments gets to name a member to the board. Oklahoma City, which has a population equal to about half the metropolitan statistical area, receives a second board seat.

Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt recently picked former Gov. Brad Henry and civic leader Mary Mélon to serve in that capacity. Mélon is former publisher of The Journal Record and is now CEO of the Foundation for Oklahoma City Public Schools.

The other RTACO members are attorney Aaron Budd, Midwest City; bank executive James Boggs, Edmond; Del City Vice Mayor Ken Bartlett; Marion Hutchison, member of the Oklahomans for New Transportation Alternatives Coalition board, Norman; and former Moore City Manager Steve Eddy.

Following years of discussions, in 2005 representatives of Oklahoma City Hall, the Central Oklahoma Transportation and Parking Authority, and community stakeholders throughout the metro area contracted for a fixed guideway study, which presented a 2030 regional vision of what the public wanted in a robust public transportation system. That study proposed an enhanced bus network, commuter rail, bus rapid transit and a downtown circulator. In 2009, an intermodal transportation hub study and the commuter corridor study were completed about the same time the Oklahoma Legislature passed a bill to allow the creation of a regional transit district.

Sweeney said that once the board chooses a chairman, approves bylaws and sits down to business, their attention will likely shift to the Burlington Northern Santa Fe train line to consider the possibility of creating passenger stations as part of a larger, multimodal network.

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