Posts Tagged ‘Oklahoma’

Oklahoma Passenger Service Plan Falls Through

August 8, 2019

A plan to expand intercity rail passenger service in Oklahoma has fallen through because the railroad that was to provide the service has ended its participation in the six-month pilot program.

The Stillwater Central Railroad told the Oklahoma Department of Transportation it would be unable to meet an Aug. 4 deadline to launch the service between Del City and Sapulpa, Oklahoma.

The railroad, which is owned by Watco, cited “changing conditions” but did not elaborate on those in a news release other than to say passenger service is no longer financially viable.

The passenger service pilot program was a requirement of the $75 million sale of the Sooner Sub rail line to Stillwater Central in 2014 by ODOT.

The Stillwater Central had agreed to provide the passenger service at no cost to the state or taxpayers.

ODOT said Stillwater Central has met all other provisions in the sale agreement and will pay ODOT $2.8 million in liquidated damages.

“The department is disappointed that the pilot program didn’t launch, as it would he helped determine the long-term viability of passenger service on this line,” state officials said. “ODOT will continue to be open to and explore other options from the private sector for a cost-effective solutions for future passenger service.”

Proposals Sought for OK Passenger Service

June 23, 2018

Watco Companies has issued a request for proposals to provide intercity rail passenger service between Tulsa and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

The request came from Watco subsidiary Stillwater Central Railroad and proposals are due by July 27.

The request for proposals seeks comprehensive proposals from providers of passenger rail services to operate passenger rail service to be known as the Eastern Flyer between Sapulpa and Del City on the Sooner Subdivision.

Oklahoma City currently is served by Amtrak’s Heartland Flyer while Tulsa has never had Amtrak service.

The last passenger trains to Tulsa were provided by the Santa Fe and discontinued with the coming of Amtrak on May 1, 1971.

Kansas Seeks Study of Heartland Flyer Extension

January 30, 2018

The Kansas Department of Transportation has asked Amtrak to undertake a study of extending the Heartland Flyer to Wichita and Newton, Kansas.

The Flyer, which is funded by the states of Oklahoma and Texas, currently operates between Oklahoma City and Fort Worth, Texas.

The study would review projected costs and ridership numbers. At Newton, the Flyer would connect with Amtrak’s Chicago-Los Angeles Southwest Chief.

It would not be the first study of extending the Heartland Flyer. An Amtrak inspection train operated over the route to Kansas City last year.

Between 1971 and 1979, Amtrak’s Chicago-Houston Lone Star used the route that is being eyed for the Flyer extension.

The Lone Star was discontinued amid a route restructuring prompted by congressional desire to reduce Amtrak funding.

Kansas and Amtrak officials are said to be optimistic about establishing the extension. Amtrak noted that a connecting bus service to Wichita that began in 2016 has had good ridership.

State officials see the Flyer extension as having potential to boost tourism and provide transportation to students attending Wichita State University, Oklahoma State University and the University of Oklahoma.

The latter, located in Norman, is already a stop on the Heartland Flyer route.

Renovated OKC Station Opens

December 8, 2017

The former Santa Fe station in downtown Oklahoma City has reopened following the completion of the first phase of its renovation and restoration.

The station, which is the northern terminus of Amtrak’s Heartland Flyer route, opened in 1934.

The restoration project restored the interior of the station to what it looked like in the 1930s.

This included matching paint from samples chipped from the wall and installing replica art deco light fixtures.

A new sculpture, titled Connectivity and created by Marsh Scott, fills the window over the west entrance.

Additional limestone traced to the same Texas quarry as the original pieces was also used in the restoration work.

“This is a gem to be involved in,” said Rick Lueb of TAP Architecture.

Most of the money for the $28.4 million project was provided by a federal transportation grant.

Lueb said photographs provided by a railroad enthusiast proved invaluable in recreating the original station.

Aside from serving Amtrak, the station will house city transit offices and retail businesses.

The next phase of the project will involve building a tunnel under the tracks to create a walkway to Bricktown and a plaza. That work is expected to be finished in June 2019.

OKC Mayor Mick Cornett said the restoration shows community values at work, preserving what could be lost.

The Heartland Flyer operates daily between Oklahoma City and Fort Worth, Texas, where it connects with Amtrak’s Chicago-San Antonio Texas Eagle.

The OKC station might also some day serve a proposed light rail line.

Hearing Set on Heartland Flyer Extension

August 24, 2017

The Oklahoma legislature will conduct a hearing on Sept. 6 to discuss extending the Heartland Flyer into Kansas.

The train currently operates between Oklahoma City and Fort Worth, Texas, but a movement is underway to extend operation of the train to Newton, Kansas, where it could connect with Amtrak’s Chicago-Los Angeles Southwest Chief.

There has also been discussion about extending the Flyer to Kansas City, Missouri.

Newton Mayor Barth Hague and Wichita Mayor Jeff Longwell plan to travel to the hearing to testify in support of the extension. Wichita has been without Amtrak service since October 1979.

Oklahoma is looking to build on an earlier study done by the state of Kansas.

The Heartland Flyer is funded primarily by Oklahoma with some funding coming from the state of Texas.

“Right now that train is funded by Texas and Oklahoma, so we certainly cannot do anything without working with them, and they want to work on it,” said Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari.

The move to extend the Heartland Flyer into Kansas dates back to at least 2008.

A 2012 study conducted by the Kansas Department of Transportation estimated the cost of improvements needed for extension to Newton route would be $87.5 million.

Extending the Flyer to Kansas City would cost about $245.5 million.

“There will be need for an effort to put some good, positive advocacy pressure on our state to jump forward to provide funding,” Hague said.

Hague noted that the 2012 cost estimates have been changed several times.

“What Amtrak and BNSF have figured out is there might be a way to extend the line without ($100 million) in track improvements,” Hague said.

Amtrak ran an inspection train on the route on June 9.