The Shawnee News-Star
  • Groups pass resolutions for rail yard

  • The movement to preserve rail systems in Oklahoma, especially those that affect Shawnee industries, is getting a boost from local officials.

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  • The movement to preserve rail systems in Oklahoma, especially those that affect Shawnee industries, is getting a boost from local officials.
    The Shawnee City Commission and the Shawnee Economic Development Foundation issued resolutions this week supporting the protection of Union Station rail yard in Oklahoma City, with an emphasis on protecting rail systems that bring freight to Shawnee. Local industries like Vanguard, Shawnee Milling, TDK and Ball Pipe and Supply rely on trains for product delivery. A total of six industries rely heavily on the railroad for business, Shawnee resident Jim Townsend said during the public comment portion of the last city commission meeting.
    “The railroad is vital to the city of Shawnee and to the development of future industries,” Townsend said. “It is very important for Shawnee to explore and develop concepts of rail transportation.”
    During Monday’s meeting, local resident Shawna Turner said rail systems also are important to people who commute to Oklahoma City to work. She said a commuter rail would allow people to continue living in Shawnee and spend tax dollars in the community but work in Oklahoma City.
    The push to save Union Station began when the group Oklahomans for New Transportation Alternatives Coalition (ONTRAC) started advocating for its rescue. Communities including Shawnee, Norman, Chickasha and El Reno have passed resolutions to back ONTRAC’s efforts.
    ONTRAC officials said the rail yard can serve as a hub for the state’s railways, which would include connecting Shawnee to Oklahoma City. The rail yard is being threatened with destruction because of the development of the Crosstown Expressway, which is scheduled to be realigned through Union Station.
    Charles Wesner, chairman of ONTRAC, said, “Once you lose it (Union Station), it cannot be re-created.”
    Shawnee Economic Development Foundation chairman Marion McMillan said the city is studying what would happen if a rail service to Shawnee didn’t exist and the affect that would have on Shawnee businesses.
    “If we lost rail service, it would bring Shawnee to its knees,” SEDF member and city commissioner Linda Peterson said.
    McMillan said he is afraid to think what would happen if Shawnee lost its rail service. During the recent floods, many industries considered reducing production or shutting down because they were unable to use the rail, he said.
    Both resolutions will request the governor to appoint a special commission to consider future rail transit options for the Oklahoma City area, future use of Union Station and finding alternate routes for the Crosstown Expressway.
    Amanda Gire may be reached at amanda.gire@news-star.com or at 214-3934.

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