Trains For America

More choices for better transportation

Oklahoma thinking about high speed rail

This subject got some discussion over at TrainOrders, and much of it was fairly derisive. My Arkansas friends will not like this much, but I continue to believe that Oklahoma has some legitimate qualifications for passenger rail improvement.

Please understand that Oklahoma owns over 800 miles of track. That is not generally suitable for European-style HSR, but those lines are certainly candidates for what FRA calls “high performance rail.”

The story in the Oklahoman is comprehensive and the reporter, Julie Bisbee, is to be commended for wading into a subject that has proven to be the downfall of many less attentive journalists.

Officials with the state Transportation Department have submitted a preliminary application for funds to make rail lines from Tulsa to the Texas state line part of a national high-speed rail corridor under the American Recovery and Rehabilitation Act. The plan would call for trains to travel between Tulsa and Oklahoma City reaching speeds as high as 150 mph. The average speed would be 110 mph.

The lines that connect the Heartland Flyer from Oklahoma City to Fort Worth, Texas, would average more than 60 mph in Oklahoma, transportation officials said.

This concept suggests a corridor from Fort Worth to Tulsa, TFA has previously commented on an Oklahoma City-Tulsa service, noting the favorable possibilities.

  • driving distance is about 100 miles
  • state owns much of the existing rail line (which needs lots of work)
  • state owns turnpike right-of-way (could this land be used? It’s straight as an arrow.)
  • Oklahoma City pop. 1,200,000 plus
  • Tulsa pop.685,000
  • interfaces with an upgraded Heartland Flyer service to DFW.

The quality of public transportation in both cities would be an important factor and that is a subject on which I am not able to comment. It seems to make sense that Oklahoma should get moving on improving the existing track to “high performance rail” standards and start operating in the 100 mph range.

Oh, look at that! 100 miles at 100 mph gives you a travel time of about one-hour end-to-end. Why haven’t they figuted this out already? And here’s the good part; it would not cost anything approaching the afore mentioned $1.5 billion.

The total construction on this is probably more like $250 million. Trains departing each end on the hour all day and scheduled at a running time of around 75 minutes is a big winner.

Oklahoma should forget European-style HSR and get moving on “high performance rail” tomorrow. It will change that already vibrant region forever.

One of the keys is connecting the Will Rogers airport in OKC to DFW with Tulsa’s airport. Yes, this will increase the cost and it will probably triple the benefit and the possibility of private sector involvement.

Filed under: Amtrak, Regional USA Passenger Rail, United States High Speed Rail

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