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Oklahoma City railroad station renovation celebrated

December 17, 2017

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Ray Lueb shipped out of Oklahoma City’s downtown Santa Fe railroad station in January 1944, a 19-year-old Marine recruit on his way to the war in the Pacific.

On Dec. 7, he was back for the dedication of the restored Art Deco-era landmark — and pronounced it “altogether different” than it was in the war years, when both were younger.

City leaders were marking a milestone in the depot’s transformation to serve passenger rail, the MAPS 3 streetcar and, down the road, commuter and light-rail.

As if on cue, a BNSF Railway freight rumbled past as Mayor Mick Cornett praised the federal, state and local partnership — in concert with the railroad — that is making the $28.4 million project a reality.

The restoration shows community values at work, preserving what could be lost, he told The Oklahoman .

“This generation said, ‘No, we’re going to do it right,’” Cornett said.

The renovated depot has office space for the city’s transit authority, a gift store and tour service, and the Pinkitzel candy and cupcake shop, which endured two years of construction.

A waiting room for Amtrak passengers features a bench true to the depot’s 1934 furnishings.

Light fixtures for the lobby were crafted from the original designs and a new sculpture, “Connectivity” by Marsh Scott, fills the window over the west entrance.

Work will continue in 2019 on a pedestrian tunnel beneath the BNSF Railway tracks, leading from the station to a plaza on the Bricktown side of the railroad viaduct.

State Sen. Stephanie Bice, R-Oklahoma City, who chairs a transportation subcommittee, said expected increases in the number of Oklahoma City commuters will require options such as those the renovated transit hub is designed to accommodate.

“We cannot afford to go backward or even stand still,” she said.

Polling by the city’s leading business organization found almost 2-to-1 support among voters in five metro cities for light-rail, said Roy Williams, president and chief executive officer of the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber.

Dawn Sullivan, director of capital programs at the Oklahoma Department of Transportation, said Amtrak’s Heartland Flyer puts destinations such as Chicago and Los Angeles within reach from the Santa Fe Station platform.

For Lueb, the platform was the first stop on a journey that led him to San Diego, Hawaii, Iwo Jima, Japan and, eventually, back to Oklahoma, where he started a business and raised a family.

Lueb was farming with his father in Durant before he enlisted.

In 30 months in the Pacific, he witnessed the raising of the second American flag atop Iwo Jima’s Mount Suribachi and earned a commendation for suppressing a fire that threatened dozens of lives.

Cpl. Lueb and two buddies threw sand on a fire that began in a bomb crater where their 81mm mortar was set up. The fire threatened to detonate ammunition stored there.

“They said it would have been a danger to anybody within a quarter of a mile,” he said.

Lueb’s son, Rick Lueb, is a principal at TAP Architecture, which led the depot restoration.

Back in the depot and taking in the restoration, the father said, “They did a good job.”

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Information from: The Oklahoman, http://www.newsok.com

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