Controversial MAPS 3 streetcar route narrowly approved

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OKLAHOMA CITY -- Plans for a $130 million downtown streetcar system take a huge step forward.

Tuesday the city council approved the four and a half mile long route for that major MAPS 3 project.

The streetcar route runs like a huge Z, stretching from Bricktown to Saint Anthony's.

From 10th street, up one block on Dewey, to 11th, east to Broadway, then south to 4th, turning down Robinson to Sheridan, then through Bricktown on Sheridan, turning again at Joe Carter along the Bricktown Ballpark, past the "Peake," down Reno to Hudson, north at the Myriad Gardens and finally up Hudson to 4th.

That's the exact route the future streetcar will take.

"The streetcar will connect all the civic institutions together," said streetcar advocate Jeff Bezdek. "You will be able to get anywhere downtown and park once."

Despite the support, 11 citizens spoke against the plan at council fearing it won't attract many riders because it doesn't go outside downtown.

"What are they going to do?  Put in the streetcars and beg people to travel 'em?" said Patricia Black.

"We're gonna pay for it and tourists are going to enjoy most of it," said Jesse Jackson.

On the other hand, supporters of the streetcar say they're simply giving voters what they were promised.

"We want to build exactly what the people voted on," said Bezdek.

The streetcar will run on tracks, flush with downtown streets, while also sharing the road with other traffic.

Planners say the route can be expanded in the future and hope hindsight proves the plan successful.

"I think when we'll look back and it'll be a no brainer, but it the meantime it is tough to do.  It's a big commitment," said streetcar advocate Nathaniel Harding.

Councilwoman Meg Salyer owns property along the downtown route and declined to take part in the vote, but it still passed by a narrow five to three margin.

The goal is to begin operations in 2017.

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