Kansas leaders excited about rail study—Oklahoma officials are mum

The first passenger train arrived in Wichita in 1872. The last departed in 1979. The Santa Fe depot at the Old Cowtown Museum, in this 2017 file photo, was originally at Anness, an unincorporated community in Sedgwick County(Max McCoy/Kansas Reflector)


The way Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly looks at the prospect of extending Amtrak’s Heartland Flyer passenger rail service in Oklahoma north into Kansas is it would help the Kansas economy.

Not that it would help Oklahoma, but help Kansas.

“The extension of the Heartland Flyer Passenger Rail would further connect Kansans to Oklahoma City and north-central Texas, unlocking business, educational, and cultural opportunities to Kansans and enabling our neighbors to the south to add to the Kansas economy,” Kelly said in response to the $500,000 in federal funding for a study of such an extension.

The study would look at adding Heartland Flyer stops in Edmond, Perry, Ponca City and three in Kansas—Arkansas City, Wichita and Newton. Tulsa would not be a part of the program.

Oklahoma Transportation Department leaders were part of the effort to seek the funding for the study. But the Kansas Transportation Department was the leader. Public reaction to the funding came from KDOT secretary Calvin Reed.

“In south-central Kansas and across the state, the call to renew this passenger rail route has been strong, unified and clear,” he said, according to a report by the Kansas Reflector.

“The result is another step forward in bringing this vital passenger rail line back into service.”

ODOT leaders have not reacted publicly to the funding of the study.

It’s not a surprise to Evan Stair, President of the two groups that support extended passenger rail service—Passenger Rail Oklahoma and Passenger Rail Kansas.

“The problem we have is ODOT—it doesn’t want passenger service. Instead, Kansas is the lead agency.”

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