Trains For America

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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

3 Responses

  1. Dave says:

    last i checked, neither city even had sunday bus service. OKC has indicated they want a streetcar route, however, and plan to put it on the ballot soon.

  2. Chris G says:

    Well I am thrilled to see this article. I have always been a fan of improved rail out in OK which is a bit strange since I’ve only been there once. But… This also has me thinking.

    Would there be enough traffic to justify express end to end only runs? I am asking as this would less than an hour at 110, or probably as stated a little over an hour. Stops will slow it further. Stops are good, and there should be locals running as well. The airport connections, again as well. But I am thinking that not every run should stop everywhere.

    Also would like to know, do western trains HAVE to be multilevel? To me, this would be an ideal situation for four to five talgo sets put together in Wisconsin.

    And that brings me to my last point. The tracks that need to be upgraded that are already owned by the state should be electrified. I know people think this is ugly. But seriously folks, its not as ugly as coming into someplace like the LA basin and seeing the yellow green smog. Electrification can be done as in India at a height that will allow doublestack freights under and still allow for the 100-110 mph operation of passenger trains.

    Yes, in time this will be a great place for 220mph. But the article is 100% correct that even 110 will make changes in life and the region that all should embrace.

  3. Tom Elmore says:

    Even as it professes interest in the Obama HSR initiative, ODOT continues to press the destruction of the OKC Union Station rail yard at 300 SW 7th to make way for a four-mile relocation of I-40.

    On June 9, BNSF destroyed the Union Station yard segment of the beautiful former Frisco line to Will Rogers Airport.

    Meanwhile, the state’s largest newspaper, THE OKLAHOMAN, long a lazy floater on the once boundless river of automobile advertising revenues, regularly runs derisive editorials against rail passenger services of any kind, taking an even nastier tone against the relentless citizen effort to save the Union Station rail yard. Even as its editors furiously rant, the Gaylord family mouthpiece inescapably appears down-at-the-head, visibly shipping water as it has now been forced to “share resources” with longtime state competitor THE TULSA WORLD.

    The same ODOT leadership that carefully stunted the HEARTLAND FLYER,s route at OKC, denying the original plan to make it Amtrak’s Mail and Express showpiece between Kansas City and Ft. Worth is plainly still working behind the scenes to make the least possible of any new rail development opportunity if it can’t ignore such prospects altogether.

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