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Thursday, September 10, 2009

Norman, Okla., underpass project cost will increase

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Design changes being mandated by a railroad company will increase the cost of building an underpass at the Robinson Street crossing in Norman, Okla., by about $1.4 million, city officials say, according to The Oklahoman. Public Works Director Shawn O'Leary said the city hopes to use stimulus money to cover most of the increased cost of the now $26 million project.


The last-minute modifications in design from BNSF are for a temporary track called a "shoofly" that will be built so trains can continue to run while the underpass is being built, O'Leary said. The modifications will allow trains to travel 55 mph through the construction zone rather than the 40 mph originally agreed upon. The railroad company also is requiring construction of a second main line track that won't be used until well into the future, O'Leary said.

O'Leary and City Manager Steve Lewis said they traveled to Kansas City, Mo., for a meeting with railroad officials to protest the design changes.

"It didn't go well. They were very clear (about the changes) and that the cost was to be born by the city," O'Leary said. The railroad is "the big dog in this. They're not regulated by other agencies. They're the contractors on this project. They do the work, and the city gets the bill."

The underpass project has been on schedule until now, O'Leary said. However, the design modifications will delay completion of the project by three months.

Voters approved a $10-million bond issue in March of 2005. That money is being matched by federal money. Additional money is coming from the state Transportation Department and is being administered by the Association of Central Oklahoma Governments. The city also has applied for $1.4 million in federal stimulus money to help pay for the underpass.

Construction is expected to begin by June or July and take about 18 months to complete, O'Leary said.

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