Among more than $8 billion in rail passenger projects announced Friday by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal railroad Administration is a study into possibly extending rail passenger service from Oklahoma City north to Newton, Kansas.
The FRA announced it awarded $8.2 billion for 10 passenger rail projects across the country and also funding for studies into corridor planning activities. It included $500,000 to the Kansas Department of Transportation to launch such a study into extending the Heartland Flyer in Oklahoma City north to Newton, Kansas. The proposed corridor would include new station stops in Edmond, Perry, and Ponca City, OK, and Arkansas City, Wichita, and Newton, KS. Tulsa would not be a part of the study.
The Kansas Department of Transportation took over as the lead while Oklahoma is reported to be part of the growing calls for expanded rail passenger service.
But Evan Stair, President of Passenger Rail Oklahoma and Passenger Rail Kansas is also critical at the same time. The two groups support an expansion of the passenger rail service between the two states.
“It’s only $500,000,” he told OK Energy Today. “Just pushes the study button. Otherwise, it will take a year to complete.”
He said once the study is completed, KDOT will have to apply for more funding for the planning.
“After the planning, it’s up to the legislatures in both states and the governors. It barely moves my enthusiasm,” he remarked.
Stair contends an extension of the Heartland Flyer is not the best solution for northern Oklahoma and Kansas because of the hours of operation.
“We prefer a Kansas City-Wichita-Oklahoma City-Fort Worth daylight operation.”
He also believes the final cost of just the extension will be close to $220 million, based on a 2022 study and adjusted for inflation.
“Much work remains before the project becomes shovel-ready and eligible for further federal grants,” he said.
The federal government explained the Kansas and Oklahoma corridor was one of 69 across 44 states chosen to be funded for study. Called the Corridor ID planning program, it was made possible by the Infrastructure law.This inaugural round of selections aims to upgrade 15 existing rail routes, add or extend service on 47 new routes, and advance 7 new high-speed rail projects, creating a pipeline of intercity passenger rail projects ready for implementation and future investment.
FRA said it will work closely with states, transportation agencies, host and operating railroads, and local governments to develop and build passenger rail projects faster than ever before.