Passenger Rail Proponents Call Out ODOT Against Sale of Rail Line

Passenger Rail Proponents Call Out ODOT Against Sale of Rail Line

On March 26, 2014, advocates of the passenger rail connecting Tulsa and Oklahoma City gathered at Fassler Hall in downtown Tulsa to state their case. This event, co-hosted by the Tulsa Young Professionals members, aimed to call state transportation officials to a forum for considering bids for the purchase of the rail line. The group, spearheaded by Tulsa Rail Advisory Committee Chairman and former City Councilor Rick Westcott, called on ODOT or the Oklahoma Department of Transportation to show everyone why it is in the public’s interest to sell the rail line.

According to Westcott and other passenger rail proponents, selling the rail line, which was owned by the state since 1998, would decidedly reduce future possibilities of having frequent passenger rail travel between the two cities. With the railroad’s current state, a passenger train trip from Sapulpa to Del City takes at least three hours. According to the group, upgrading the rail line for passenger service would only cost $1 million instead of the $100 million claimed by ODOT. Upgrading will then bring run times down to two hours and fifteen minutes each way.

On the other hand, Iowa Pacific Holdings, which is a company with interests in the rail line have offered to provide eight round trips a day with $1 million for line repairs to get the track ready for passenger service if ownership is kept by the state.

The forum was also attended by Cherokee Nation Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr. and Tulsa City Councilor Blake Ewing. According to the latter, the presence or absence of a passenger rail in Tulsa will surely affect the future marketing opportunities of the city to young professionals who are searching for a place to settle down. He also expressed that passenger rails are an economic development opportunity to provide people from surrounding communities easier access to Tulsa. Meanwhile, Hoskin was asked whether the Cherokee Nation, which provides funds for infrastructure developments in its 14-country jurisdiction, would be willing to help financially in bringing passenger rail to the area. In this, he answered that the tribe has a common goal in helping the economic development of the Tulsa metro area. 

Cindy Daniel
Oklahoma City Real Estate

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