OKC, Union Pacific Dispute Halts Bricktown Connection To River

Tuesday, October 1st 2013, 7:15 pm
By: News 9

Work to connect Bricktown to the Oklahoma River Boathouse District hit a roadblock Tuesday.

Oklahoma City officials say they were forced to call off a scheduled grand opening ceremony for a pedestrian tunnel under I-40 and a railroad after a dispute with Union Pacific. The city says the tunnel is ready to go, but Union Pacific says -- not yet.

For more than a decade, the city has planned on connecting the south edge of Bricktown with the Oklahoma River. The city wants people on tour boats to be able to hop off and catch a water taxi from one entertainment district to the next. The tunnel will also allow walkers and cyclists to travel easily between Bricktown and the Boathouse District.

OKC spokesperson Kristy Yager says the city has been working with Union Pacific for years, but the railroad says it didn't even know the tunnel existed until last week. Yager chalks the confusion up to a communication breakdown.

"We've got pages of documentation that we've worked with them over the last two years," Yager said. "We just now need to talk to our new contact [at Union Pacific]."

Throughout the day, people could be seen walking under the railway. But as far as the railroad is concerned, it's off limits until Union Pacific has the opportunity to inspect the tunnel.

A five-day boating festival kicks off Wednesday along the Oklahoma River. City officials hope a temporary agreement can be made before the weekend.

Union Pacific released the following statement Tuesday:

"Union Pacific was initially notified of the Bricktown Landing Ceremony late last week by city officials. At that time, Union Pacific was made aware that the city had built the canal and trail system on Union Pacific property underneath a rail bridge. Because we were not involved in the construction process, we have not had an opportunity to inspect the facility to ensure the safety of those who will use the canal and trail system. It is unfortunate that this oversight occurred, but we are diligently working with all involved parties to come to an agreement so that the Bricktown Landing can be opened."