Evan Stair in Oklahoma City brings the latest Heartland Flyer developments forward, leading with some of his own comments.
This story is typical of something I have discussed in the past. Some people do not believe that Tulsans are adverse to expanded Amtrak service through Wichita. Well some are… Read the comments section following the article.
I was checking this morning for information regarding the INCOG (Indian Nation Council of Governments) Rail program in the Tulsa World following last night’s meeting at Tulsa Union Station. I did not attend the meeting because of other commitments; however, there are some financial realities that I believe trump political realities. In fact, it might be easier to trump the political realities if Tulsa legislators and civic organizations were honestly educated about what is easiest to do with regard to Oklahoma passenger rail expansion.
1) Missouri is not presently considering Amtrak expansion between St. Louis and Springfield (Branson). The idea was snuffed out last year as too expensive for the added transportation benefit. There are still some in Oklahoma who refuse to consider the Missouri initiative dead, despite the fact that Missouri is threatening to cut one of the two Amtrak frequencies between St. Louis and Kansas City. Until Missouri begins seeing a need for additional state passenger rail routes, the Eastward (or Northward) expansion of Amtrak service from Oklahoma City to Tulsa and beyond will have to wait.
2) ODOT figures show that track upgrades between Oklahoma City and Tulsa will be in the range of $110 million. Amtrak’s pending study for “Tulsa” operation is expected to blow the Tulsa operational concept out of the water financially. Now, $110 million is not a lot of money in ODOT’s overall $1.5 billion budget, but it is large when ODOT does not seem willing to confront the “Heartland Flyer tourist train” myth. This myth is perpetuated in the Oklahoma Legislature as I am certain that the ODOT sponsored “Beach Party” train is on the horizon. Information is sketchy at best with regard to the quality of the track between Oklahoma City and Sapulpa. It is “dark territory” meaning that passenger trains would not be allowed to go conventional passenger rail speeds.
3) Based upon the existing Heartland Flyer schedule, Tulsa as a terminal would have a train arriving from Oklahoma City at about 1:00am. It would have to leave Tulsa by 5:30am to reach Oklahoma City in time to continue the existing schedule. Further, Tulsa would be a lengthened stub end. The goal is of course developing a corridor between Texas and Kansas. With a layover (to be determined by Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas governments and Amtrak… not by any rail advocacy organization.)
4) ODOT figures also show that track upgrades between Oklahoma City and Newton will be in the range of $5 million.
5) We will see what the Amtrak Tulsa study says. We will also see what the Amtrak Kansas City – Fort Worth study says later this year or early next. It is nice to have both studies ending within a year of each other as it will help lawmakers make decisions about what is best with regard to expansion. Both routes are necessary.
6) The better and less costly “Tulsa” alternative is to operate the Tulsa to Oklahoma City corridor as a non-Amtrak route using state owned equipment. This would include state owned equipment from a provider such as Colorado Rail Car. It could be operated like that in New Mexico (RailRunner) ala progressive Governor Bill Richardson. This would provide more frequent service that would come online faster than Amtrak could provide. Remember folks, this is an INTRA-state route. Consider that with Rail upgrades Tulsa might eventually “get” an Amtrak train “through” Tulsa with state funded rail upgrades capable of 50-50 federal matching funding already available for grant applications. However, they might also find the state operated routing more to their liking. Just getting something on the rails at this point is important.
7) Kansas is showing signs that they want to join the 14 other states supplementing federally funded Amtrak service. Until this imitative is as dead as Missouri’s it behooves Oklahomans to unify behind this effort. Why? Because it is fiscally less taxing to the taxpayer and is in effect easier to sell to fiscally conservative lawmakers.
Northern Flyer Alliance
Kansas City rail service may be expanded to Oklahoma City
By Associated Press
3/21/2008 10:28 AM
TOPEKA, Kan. — Kansas transportation officials have asked Amtrak to study the possible expansion of rail service from Kansas City to Oklahoma City.
The rail line will look at connecting two existing routes — one that runs from Kansas City to Newton, Kan., the other from Fort Worth, Texas, to Oklahoma City. The study will consider scheduling, the availability of locomotives and cars and whether rail improvements are needed.
The study would be paid for by the Kansas Department of Transportation at a cost of $150,000 to $200,000. It would begin this summer and be completed in the fall of 2009.
KDOT said in a news release Thursday that Arkansas City, Strong City, Lawrence, Winfield and Emporia have expressed interest in the expansion. By Associated Press
7 readers have commented on this story so far. Tell us what you think below!
1. 3/21/2008 11:10:43 AM, Leo Graves,
Tulsa gets bypassed, what a shock. Tulsa’s dead, bury it and give it a nice tombstone.
2. 3/21/2008 11:30:08 AM, TURobY, Tulsa
It’s not a shock, as it would not be feasible to go through Tulsa because the passenger infrastructure doesn’t exist here. Remember, this is a feasability study by Kansas transportation officials to connect existing lines together in the least obtrusive way. Those lines exist from Fort Worth to OKC, and Kansas City to Newton, KS. Examing a map, you’ll notice that the next logical stop from Newton would be Wichita, then down I-35 to OKC.
3. 3/21/2008 11:59:31 AM, jason, tulsa
With fuel prices rising at least it nice to see some more mass transit options being visited. (even if tulsa isn’t included) However it would be nice to see this done with “bullet” trains capable of 200+ mph, however I’m sure the cost would be enormous.
4. 3/21/2008 1:21:25 PM, KC Fan, Tulsa
This is awesome. I have lived in Oklahoma City, Lawrence, Winfield, and Kansas City. Kansas City is an awesome place. It is much better than Dallas. I think people would enjoy visiting KC and this makes it easy. It is only a 3.5 hour drive from Tulsa so I would not use the train if it did run to Tulsa.
5. 3/21/2008 9:12:18 PM, patrick fox, Tulsa
We should protest any state funding for this line, unless it contains money to connect Tulsa to OKC via the rail line that the state ALREADY OWNS.
And…TuRoby…I don’t believe that what you are saying about Tulsa to KC being an inferior connection is true. Not according to any rail study I have seen.
6. 3/21/2008 9:27:25 PM, Stacy Richardson, Tulsa
TURoby is wrong. The lines are already in place between Kansas City and Tulsa, and from Tulsa to Dallas. It’s a matter of coming up with some money to remodel a depot to resume passenger service, finding the funds to upgrade the track, and doing it.
The track between Oklahoma City and Tulsa is in deplorable state. We could fund track improvements all the way to Dallas for what it would cost to fix the track between Oklahoma City and Tulsa.
But, of course, such a plan wouldn’t help Oklahoma City. In this miserable, misbegotten state of Oklahoma, if there’s a way to screw Tulsa, Tulsa will get screwed. And once again, Tulsa is getting screwed.
7. 3/22/2008 1:56:28 AM, Larry,
How could anybody around here believe that Tulsa would get rail service? Several years ago someone from the Tulsa World speculated that we would never see rail service. I see nothing has changed.
OKC has all the free roads in the state and now apparently will have even better rail service. And if it wasn’t for Americans’ main maintenance base our airport would probably dry up and blow away.
For those of you who make trips to Dallas you’re faced with going to OKC via the pike and then take the free Interstate to Dallas or face Hwy 75 where a number of small infamous municipalities await your arrival to pick your pickets big time (speed traps).
A train ride would bypass this harassment and make life a little easier and less expensive for us. What are our Tulsa legislators waiting for?