Posts Tagged ‘Texas Department of Transportation’

Texas County Seeks Daily Sunset Limited

January 29, 2019

The Jefferson County Commissioners Court in Texas is trying to push for the tri-weekly Sunset Limited to operate daily.

The court voted unanimously to go on record as favoring daily operation of Nos. 1 and 2 in Southeast Texas.

Public officials in San Antonio, Houston and Tucson — all of which are served by the Sunset — have also expressed support for daily service.

The tri-weekly operation of the Sunset Limited has existed since the first day of Amtrak, a relic of less-than-daily service under Southern Pacific.

“I think if they want to make an appeal for more transportation-related opportunities for citizens along the Amtrak route, I’m certainly not going to stand in the way of that progress,” Jefferson County Judge Jeff Branick said.

Those trying to get daily service by Nos. 1 and 2 have pointed to a growing population base in the states served by the train, including a 22 percent increase between 2000 and 2016.

However, a rail plan issued by the Texas Department of Transportation said that host railroad Union Pacific has told Amtrak it wants $750 million in track rehabilitation and other capital improvements before it will allow Nos. 1 and 2 to operate daily.

OKC-South Texas Rail Found Feasible by Study

November 9, 2017

A study has determined that a passenger-rail route between Oklahoma City and South Texas would be feasible.

The Texas Department of Transportation announced the results of the study this week, saying that the finding will pave the way for continued analysis of the proposal, including an environmental study to determine the route and environmental impacts before construction could begin.

The study also looked at the prospect of 220 mph passenger-rail between Dallas and San Antonio, finding it also would be feasible.

TxDOT said that the study found feasible passenger-rail service between San Antonio, Laredo and Monterrey, Mexico; and also studied 125 mph service between San Antonio to the Rio Grande Valley and improved Amtrak service between Dallas and Oklahoma City.

“At this point a private developer could step forward to determine future possibilities,” TxDOT officials said in a statement.

The $7 million Texas-Oklahoma passenger-rail study was federally funded and broke the 850-mile corridor broken into three segments: Oklahoma City to Dallas-Fort Worth; Dallas-Fort Worth to San Antonio; and San Antonio to South Texas.

Private Operator Taking Over Heartland Flyer May be Key to Returning Rail Service to Wichita

September 21, 2016

Amtrak hasn’t served Wichita, Kansas, since October 1979 when the Chicago-Houston Lone Star was discontinued in a massive route restructuring designed to cut costs.

Now Kansas officials are hoping that Iowa Pacific Holdings can be the ticket to restoring rail service by extending the Heartland Flyer from Oklahoma City to Wichita; Newton, Kansas; or Kansas City.

Heartland FlyerThe Flyer is a student-supported train that currently operates between Oklahoma City and Fort Worth, Texas, where it connects with the Chicago-San Antonio Texas Eagle.

Iowa Pacific has been mentioned as a potential operator of the Heartland Flyer. Oklahoma is seeking proposals from entities willing to run the Flyer at presumably less cost than what the Oklahoma and Texas departments of transportation are now paying Amtrak.

The two states are paying Amtrak about $2.5 million and $3.5 million a year, from Texas and Oklahoma respectively, to operate the service, which serves more than 70,000 passengers a year.

Continued operation of the Heartland Flyer was in question earlier this year when an Oklahoma lawmaker said the state didn’t have the money to pay for the train.

But the Oklahoma Legislature approved used money from a $5 million annual revolving fund that supports the Heartland Flyer to make up the budget shortfall.

Kenna Carmen, a spokeswoman for the Oklahoma Department of Transportation, said the state has enough funds to keep the Flyer running through the next fiscal year.

IP more than a year ago took over from Amtrak operation of the quad-weekly Hoosier State between Chicago and Indianapolis and has received acclaim for improving the service.

IP has been identified as one of seven potential bidders to take over the Heartland Flyer.

Ed Ellis, the head of IP, said the key to bringing costs down is charging passengers more for enhanced service – something he bets they’re willing to pay.

“They would love to have a better travel experience even if it costs more money,” Ellis said.

Although Wichita is not served by Amtrak, a Thruway bus connects the city with the Heartland Flyer at Oklahoma City.
Extending the Flyer into Kansas could cost more than $100 million for additional equipment and such capital costs as track improvements and new stations.

Officials say that the state of finances in Kansas state government means that cities to be served by the Flyer would have to to cover the operating costs that ordinarily the states would pick up.

“It’s one of those situations where it’s going to take broad-based support,” said John Maddox, program director for rail at the Kansas Department of Transportation.

Kansas is served by one Amtrak route, the Chicago-Los Angeles Southwest Chief, which stops in Newton, about 25 miles north of Wichita.

The state was part of an effort to win a federal grant that was used to rebuild the tracks used by the Chief in western Kansas that kept it on its current route for the foreseeable future.

The Thruway bus that links Wichita and Oklahoma City also operates to Newton to connect with the Chief.

ODOT Seeks RFQ on Heartland Flyer

June 7, 2016

The Oklahoma Department of Transportation has issued a request for qualifications for providers interested in operating the Heartland Flyer.

The train is currently operated by Amtrak with funding from the states of Texas and Oklahoma.

Heartland FlyerODOT and the Texas Department of Transportation are seeking to gauge the interest of companies that could provide train crews, rolling stock, train maintenance, on-board food and beverage, ticketing, and support personnel.

Issuance of the RFQ doesn’t necessarily mean the departments will proceed with a request for proposals, however. Responses to the RFQ are due by June 22.

The Heartland Flyer began operating in June 1999 between Oklahoma City and Fort Worth, Texas, with funding part provided by Oklahoma.

Texas began helping to fund the train, which connect in Fort Worth with the Chicago-San Antonio Texas Eagle in 2006.