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COMMENTARY
MAPS 3
(Morguefile.com)

Take a drive on Oklahoma City streets, and you’ll know 79 percent of our roads rank as “poor or mediocre condition.” Pothole after pothole, our streets cost each resident $832 each year in repairs, fuel and tires, according to TRIP, a national nonprofit transportation organization. The same study ranks our city streets “… fifth among large urban areas in the annual cost to motorists of driving on rough roads.”

This Tuesday, we have a historic opportunity to fix this problem, improve our roads and make our streets safer.

As a trustee on the Central Oklahoma Transportation and Parking Authority (COTPA), I encourage my OKC neighbors to vote “yes” this Tuesday on our upcoming general obligation (GO) bond and MAPS 3 sales tax extension.

Connect neighborhoods with city’s renaissance

We need to put our people to work, rebuilding our crumbling streets and infrastructure. We need to invest in critical improvements to our bridges, our drainage system, our traffic control system, our parks and recreational facilities, our libraries, our civic center, our downtown arena, our police- and fire-training facilities, our city maintenance facilities and our public transportation system.

Each of these core city services appear on our GO bond ballot as a proposition for individual consideration. Together, these important infrastructure investments strengthen our city, improving the quality of life for those who call OKC home.

GO bond votes only occur every 10 years, which means this upcoming election gives us a rare opportunity to better connect our neighborhoods to our city’s recent renaissance.

GO bond, MAPS extension by the numbers

Specifically, the GO bond asks us to approve $491 million to rebuild and repair our streets, which includes $18 million for sidewalks and $5 million for bike lanes. Moreover, the GO bond invests $20 million in our public transportation system, which includes funding for bus replacement, fleet expansion and bus stop improvements. More buses mean more frequency and less wait time.

The 27-month MAPS 3 sales tax extension means $240 million in additional funding dedicated to street improvements and public safety.

A separate ballot proposal, a permanent quarter-cent sales tax dedicated to funding our fire and police departments, means hiring an additional 129 police officers and 75 firefighters. Currently, our city operates at a deficit of nearly 300 officers; more officers mean better response times and opportunities for community policing, so police can build relationships with the residents and businesses they’ve sworn to serve and protect.

For a full breakdown of the bond package, including an interactive map, see the City of OKC’s website.

Imagine the possibilities

Imagine, then, walking from your front door each day on sidewalks compliant with the American with Disabilities Act (ADA), or riding your bicycle in bike lanes to a nearby bus stop, arriving at a covered bus shelter shielding you from the elements while you wait for a city bus to take you to work.

Imagine using a bike rack on the front of a bus to store your bicycle during your work commute. Imagine having a disability, waiting at an ADA-compliant bus shelter and riding one of our already ADA-compliant buses.

Imagine checking email or social media during your daily commute, using the free Wi-Fi service our Embark city buses already provide. Imagine avoiding congestion. Imagine driving your car without avoiding potholes.

Imagine arriving by bus or bike downtown, riding our new OKC Streetcar to ballgames, restaurants and work.

Imagine traveling around a better-connected city, where a car is an option, not a necessity, a place where our city streets and public transportation connect our people to work, school, church, recreation and home.

Join me in turning this vision into reality. Vote “Yes” Tuesday.

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James Cooper is former president of Oklahoma Film Critics Circle and an adjunct film studies professor at Oklahoma City University. He teaches middle school and serves currently on OCU's arts and sciences advisory board.