More federal funding of Amtrak leaves Oklahomans hopeful of extended rail service

Some Oklahomans are optimistic the federal funding bill signed into law last week by President Trump will lead to extended Amtrak passenger service in Oklahoma.

The bill includes $50 million to protect rail service in Kansas. Amtrak runs from Kansas City to Newton, Dodge City and Garden City before heading into New Mexico and eventually reaching California.

“This is a turning point for passenger rail service in Oklahoma,” said Evan Stair with Passenger Rail Oklahoma in an interview with Emory Bryan at KOTV 6 News in Tulsa. “And that’s because all those Oklahoma stops, like Norman, depend on a strong national network of trains.”

Amtrak’s Heartland Express runs from Oklahoma City south to Dallas. But Stair and other rail passenger supporters have pushed for several years to extend the rail service from OKC north to Newton, Kansas and also from OKC to Tulsa and north to Kansas City.

 

The Southwest Chief in Kansas is the most realistic connection from Oklahoma City – and it could also connect through Tulsa and on to Kansas City.

“We always envisioned Tulsa to not be the end of the line, but we always envisioned it to go on to Kansas City or St.Louis and tie into the rest of the nation that way,” said Rick Westcott, former Tulsa City Councilor.

Tulsa already has a bridge over the river built for passenger trains, but no local, public political effort to get the train moving.

Westcott tried and failed but he believes it makes even better sense now.

“For the last 3 or 4 years, nothing has come out of City Hall to foster passenger rail from Oklahoma City to Tulsa and we have to have municipal leader,” he said.

Stair believes the new money makes Oklahoma’s case even stronger for new connections to the national Amtrak network.

“One is through Tulsa to Kansas City. The other is through Wichita to Kansas City but without the Southwest Chief, the entire  regional network of regional rail, future and existing, would have collapsed,” said Stair.

Click here to view Bryan’s report at News on 6.

 

 

 

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