Light rail backers may have to convince Istook

Saturday, January 3rd 2004, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

TULSA, Okla. (AP) _ A request for $9 million to study a light-rail system in Tulsa, might face the same fate as a similar request for a study in Oklahoma City.

It could be shot down.

The six-year proposal has been included in a bill that reauthorizes the nation's transportation programs, including highways and transit systems, the Tulsa World's Washington Bureau reported.

Tim Armer, transportation policy manager for the Indian Nations Council of Governments, Oklahoma should be in good shape when it comes to such requests.

Two members of its congressional delegation _ Reps. John Sullivan, a Republican, and Brad Carson, a Democrat _ serve on the House committee that will write the authorization bill, and GOP Sen. Jim Inhofe is chairman of the Senate committee with authority over key portions of the bill.

But to get the money for the study, Oklahoma's congressional delegation has to convince Republican Rep. Ernest Istook, chairman of the House subcommittee that handles the spending bill for transportation projects.

Istook opposed a $9 million request to study a light system for Oklahoma City.

He may do the same with the Tulsa request.

Istook has said he wants to use his position to leverage funds for highway needs for the state, before other requests.

Istook has said he doesn't believe that its level of traffic congestion currently warrants such a costly solution in Oklahoma City.

A light-rail system big enough to serve the Oklahoma City area is expected to cost hundreds of millions of dollars.

Istook has indicated that he would be more likely to support studies that are not limited to rail systems and that cost less than $9 million.

Armer said Istook's stance is a concern for backers of the Tulsa request.

If the entire $9 million, six-year request is dropped, he said a fall-back plan calls for a $1 million proposal to fund the initial study but leaves out follow-up work.