Amtrak Still in the Cards

Tulsa could soon be a rail transportation hub for travelers and commuters.
Joint Resolution No. 14, authored by Oklahoma Sen. Bill Brown, asked the U.S. Department of Transportation to perform a feasibility study on the extension of rail service from Tulsa to the Springfield/St. Louis area. The resolution passed 100 to nothing and was signed by Gov. Brad Henry April 9.
“That indicates strong interest in extending passenger rail service to Tulsa,” said Tulsa City Councilor Rick Westcott, a major proponent of the establishment of passenger rail service in Tulsa.
A bill was recently introduced to the U.S. Senate that includes 80 percent federal matching funds to supplement state monies to expand existing rail lines, such as the Heartland Flyer that extends from Oklahoma City to Fort Worth. The bill will be up for vote this fall. If it is passed by Congress, a bill could be submitted to the state legislature for funding that would extend the Heartland Flyer from Oklahoma City to Tulsa.
Shortly after the Dec. 8 Tulsa City Council Amtrak Conference, Councilor Westcott, in cooperation with the Oklahoma Department of Transportation and the Indian Nation Council of Governments, requested that Amtrak conduct a feasibility study and survey to examine potential passenger rail service for Tulsa.
The result of this study, which will be released in the next 45 days, will include the cost to update the existing rail line between Oklahoma City and Tulsa, as well as the operating budget needed to extend Heartland Flyer service to Tulsa.
A prior feasibility study conducted by INCOG found that rehabilitation of the existing rail line would cost $150 million.
“That’s a lot of money for the state legislature to come up with,” Westcott said. “But, if we could count on an 80 percent federal match, that leaves us to come up with just $30 million.”
“So, that the bill in the Senate passes is critical.”
Extension of the Heartland Flyer from Oklahoma City to Tulsa and then possibly to St. Louis would afford Tulsa “a lot of benefits,” he said.
The INCOG study estimated that 600 people would ride the train per day if rail service was established between Tulsa and St. Louis.
“A large number of those people would use the train as a commuter service to come to work each day,” Westcott said. “And, it would be wonderful if families who live in northeast Oklahoma had access to passenger rail service.”
“With the downtown development we’re starting to see, I think passenger rail is an important part of our future plans.”

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