On this episode of the Business Intelligence Report, Journal Record editor Russell Ray discusses the city of Edmond's move toward quieter railroad crossings, which could attract additional development near the tracks. Ray also talks about Will Rogers World Airport's $62 million expansion project.
Katelyn Howard: This is the Business Intelligence Report, a weekly conversation about business news in Oklahoma. I'm Katelyn Howard. Joining me is Russell Ray, editor of The Journal Record. This week, I'd like to focus on a couple of recent stories by The Journal Record’s Brian Brus that relate to transportation. The first story is about the city of Edmond's ongoing transformation toward quieter railroad crossings. Edmond City Hall spokesperson Casey Moore says this move could attract additional development near the track. Will you explain the city's motivation for creating this quiet zone and the costs and efforts it would require?
Russell Ray: Yes, the project is expected to cost up to $3.5 million. The obvious goal here is to reduce noise, but this means a certain level of construction will have to take place near the track. There are nearly a dozen crossings in Edmond. The trains normally sound their horns about a mile in advance of each intersection to warn drivers. To eliminate those noisy horns, the city will be adding better gates and medians to keep drivers getting around those barriers.
Howard: These quiet zones aren't exactly new to Oklahoma since Norman and Oklahoma City have already created similar quiet zones along railway lines. Oklahoma City completed its construction in 2016 on about a dozen crossings at a cost of about $3.9 million. What has been the response from OKC businesses and residents?
Ray: Well, we've been told by those in the commercial real estate sector that those investments have actually led to the purchase of property on or near the railroad crossings. It's gone from a loud rumble to a low hum, and businesses in these areas say the benefits far outweigh the inconvenience of construction and those loud horns.
Howard: As you’ve mentioned, safety is an obvious concern. What must the federal government and the railway lines in question do before there can be quieter railroad crossings in Edmond?
Ray: Well, crossings must be approved by the Federal Rail Administration and even the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway must issue new protocols giving their operators permission to not sound their horns.
Howard: Now, the second story by Brian Brus I'd like to talk about concerns Will Rogers World Airport’s ongoing expansion project. According to airport representatives, the $62 million project will add a new concourse and gates. Can you tell us more about this?
Ray: Yes, Timberlake Construction began building a concourse on the airport's east side and its four new gates, which will be leased by Delta Air Lines. The project is expected to be finished in about two years. Also, to better accommodate travelers, the airport will build a new security checkpoint with a lot more space.
Howard: And this is an effort from Airport Trust officials to meet increasing demands and passenger traffic, which they say jumped by more than 10 percent last year.
Ray: That's right. Nearly 2.2 million passengers boarded planes at the airport in 2018. That's up from 1.9 million in 2017, and industry trends suggest these numbers will continue to grow in 2019.
Howard: Russell Ray is editor of The Journal Record. Thanks for your time today, Russell.
Ray: My pleasure, Katelyn. Thank you.
Howard: KGOU and The Journal Record collaborate each week on the Business Intelligence Report. You can follow us both on social media. We're on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, @journalrecord and @kgounews. You'll find links to the stories we discussed during this episode at journalrecord.com. And, this conversation, along with previous episodes of the Business Intelligence Report are available on our website, kgou.org. While you're there, you can check out other features and podcasts produced by KGOU and our StateImpact reporting team. For KGOU and the Business Intelligence Report, I'm Katelyn Howard.
The Business Intelligence Report is a collaborative news project between KGOU and The Journal Record.
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