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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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