Trains, overpasses, and loops. Maybe I missed something. I thought the idea of actually elevating the train tracks was “deader than Elvis.” However, recent Claremore City Council agenda’s have continued to address the track elevation as a viable solution.
Mayor Mickey Perry says we have not fully committed city resources to anything significant, but that we must keep our options open and keep a dialogue going with the state if we are going to take advantage of funding they have already earmarked for us. “We are planning a town hall meeting on December 1st to discuss all of the options we have and set ourselves on course to solving this. I’d encourage the public to come out to talk and to listen. When the details are finalized we will put that information out there so the people can attend,” said Perry.
The Progress posted a survey on claremoreprogress.com asking if readers prefer elevated tracks versus several overpasses for cars. The results of the survey were overwhelming. Claremore clearly does not currently want elevated train tracks through the center of town. Over 800 different computers-users responded. Less than 30 perdent favor elevating the train. Over 60 percent prefer solutions that send cars over the trains.
There is widespread agreement that a remedy is necessary. While I’ve never actually tallied them, I would hazard a guess that I get stopped about three times every day for trains in Claremore. Who would not love to see a remedy to the problem of trains shutting down traffic in all directions umpteen times each day?
Nor have I had a conversation with a single person, the Mayor included, who lives in Rogers County who prefers to see a mile-long, six-story behemoth berm running right beside historic Route 66 through the middle of town. Experts have said that with the height of the elevation plus the train on top of it when those double-stacked trains are going through town it will be higher than the top of the Will Rogers Hotel. The tunnel itself must be high enough for a tractor-trailer truck to go under with room to spare. With the Christmas Parade right around the corner, imagine looking up the hill for Santa on the fire truck, only to see a dirt wall with railcars blaring across it drowning out the Claremore High School band.
The best alternative I’ve heard discussed is to elevate cars over the tracks at either Country Club or Archer, and again near Blue Starr. Claremore received grant money to improve the Archer intersection and widen that stretch of JM Davis. That grant may retire unused. Those monies could at least partially fund the Archer portion of the project. We could build a large number of overpasses for the cost of a singe train elevation. An overpass at each end of town could be ornately decorated like “gates to the city.”
With whatever investment we ultimately make in improving travel through Claremore, we need to address future access needs as our fine city resumes its former growth pattern. Aesthetics are one thing, accommodating growth and travel patterns are another altogether, and an elevated train track is an expensive and unsightly way to fall short of those local needs.
State Representative Marty Quinn (R-Claremore) shared his thoughts on the track and traffic situations in Claremore. “I’m thankful for the commitment Sec. Ridley has made to this community. Because of this commitment we need to make sure we redirect the state and local resources towards a plan that will serve us many years into the future. You and I, like many others in town know the overhead track is not the answer to all the transportation needs of Claremore. In fact I think this project could create a long-term problem even though the state thinks it’s a long-term solution.”
Quinn continued, ”Having the vision to plan many years into the future is a must for a city the size of Claremore. We may not be able to build all the bypasses and over-passes we need at one time but we can begin the process. In my opinion the plan should try to solve the transportation and train issues for the next 50-year period. We can’t allow JUST the TRAIN solution to ruin businesses like Pixley’s or Stillwater Milling. What would then happen to those jobs much less the sales taxes for the city?”
If we can use the monies the state would be willing to spend on an elevated track solution and repurpose it to begin a total traffic infrastructure solution, we can solve more problems with the same money while positioning Claremore for future improvements we can fund over time.
Bailey Dabney is publisher of the Claremore Daily Progress..