January 16, 2014
Representative Richard Morrissette Introduces Sweeping Transportation Reform Bills

Morrissette Introduces Sweeping Transportation Legislation
to Protect State Assets and Expand Options for Every Oklahoman
HB2896 – HB2897 – HB2898

The Oklahoma Department of Transportation has set in motion a process to sell a strategic state owned rail line that connects Oklahoma City and Tulsa and that will host the EASTERN FLYER in February. The 97.5 mile rail line, previously owned by the BNSF Railway, between Oklahoma City and Sapulpa had fallen into such disrepair that it was rumored ready for abandonment. Visionary state transportation officials purchased the rail line to preserve it for passenger rail development in 1998.

Succeeding and caviler ODOT officials placed this rail line up for sale last year. Representative Morrissette and other state legislators are seeking to block the sale of your railroad. Details regarding the bills will be available on Representative Morrissette’s Home Page at the beginning of the 2014 legislative session in February. Those wishing to voice their opposition to the sale of the rail line should contact the Governor’s office at (405) 521-2342 as soon as possible.

January 1, 2014
Eastern Flyer Set to Run from Sapulpa to Oklahoma City

Welcome the newest excursion rail service in Oklahoma. The Eastern Flyer is the newest train in Oklahoma. This high-end service will operate February 9, 15, and 23 between Sapulpa, 18 miles southwest of downtown Tulsa to Midwest City on the southeast side of Oklahoma City. Motorcoaches will deliver you to one of three Oklahoma City destinations including Bricktown, an Oklahoma City Thunder Basketball Game, or the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. Click on the logo below for reservations.

Parsons Brinckerhoff Studies Continue as ODOT seeks Federal Dollars

As the Eastern Flyer begins racking up miles Parsons-Brinckerhoff continues studying the prospects of passenger rail between Oklahoma City and Tulsa. The current phase of this study is a two-year environmental clearance. Once complete, additional studies, findings, engineering construction and testing will be required.

Two possible scenarios are on the table:

1) High-Speed 125-mph High-Speed Rail adjacent to the Turner Turnpike ($2 billion)
2) Conventional 79-mph to 90-mph commuter rail ($100 million)

Don’t be confused. One is an illusion the other practical.

ODOT must consider practicality if it is to become a honest passenger rail player. Consider, in 2009 ODOT submitted a $2 billion High-Speed, turnpike alignment project request. This request was a full 25% of the national allotment for High Speed Rail that year. Federal Railroad Administration’s (FRA) High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail (HSIPR) program staff did not even forward ODOT’s plan for technical evaluation. Rather, it provided capital funding to projects in Missouri and Illinois that have since increased Missouri Amtrak reliability and increased Amtrak speeds in Illinois to 110-mph on some routes.

ODOT planners are expected to restate myths about conventional passenger rail during these open houses to steer your thoughts. The most outrageous of these is that travelers will not use a train with average speeds offered through conventional rail when the Turner Turnpike runs parallel. The operative rebuttal question is this, “So ODOT has stated that the Heartland Flyer, running parallel to I-35, is a success at 79-mph but a similar speed train between Oklahoma City and Tulsa would not attract passengers? Why the double standard?” You will hear similar statements regarding the Oklahoma City – Tulsa conventional alignment is “too curvy.”

Most importantly you might not hear that ODOT intends to sell the 97.5 miles of conventional railroad between Oklahoma City and Tulsa. This must not happen and you are encouraged to stand toe to toe with ODOT representatives and protest. ODOT will claim that private railroads can better afford to upgrade the rails to passenger standards if passenger rail ever returns. This is patently untrue. The cost for the state to upgrade the railroad to passenger standards is magnitudes of order less than that of a Class-1 railroad such as the BNSF.

If this state is to develop 21st Century modes of transportation it must reject the highway policies of the 20th Century. Please attend and come prepared.

For more information contact:

Evan Stair at EvanStair@PassengerRailOK.org

For More information about Passenger Rail Oklahoma
contact Evan Stair at EvanStair@PassengerRailOK.org

Copyright 2014, Passenger Rail Oklahoma