Passenger Train Advocates Urge State To Keep Sand Springs To OKC Track
SAND SPRINGS, Oklahoma - There hasn't been a passenger train between Tulsa and Oklahoma City for three decades, but some have hopes to start a new line.
There's a 118-mile-long stretch of rail line from Sapulpa to Oklahoma City. It's owned by the state now, and some believe that's critical to the creation of passenger train service to the Tulsa area.
At a meeting of the City of Tulsa's rail advisory committee, members talked about Oklahoma missing out on economic development by not having a commuter rail between the two cities.
"You put a public transportation system in that's convenient, reliable and comfortable, and people will flock to it, and when people flock to that spot, then there are commercial uses that spring up at every one of those," said committee member Thomas Verdel.
The rail line to Oklahoma City only handles freight now, and though it's in good repair, passenger trains would require a significant upgrade.
If the state sells the line, some believe it would never be improved and the state couldn't buy it back.
"Once you have an asset, and let go of it, you cannot get it back. And land is one, and if the state lets it go, it's going to be Hell to pay to get it back," said Sand Springs Vice Mayor Michael Phillips.
The Oklahoma Department of Transportation's biggest solid commitment to passenger rail for Northeast Oklahoma is a bridge over the Arkansas made for passenger trains, but that also helped ODOT secure federal funding for it.
As for the Sapulpa line, ODOT says it's being appraised for a possible sale, because there's been interest in buying it. Rail advocates in Tulsa believe ODOT should keep the line and make the upgrade; then open the doors for railroads to run it.
"We want to see private industry have a real opportunity to develop this route for passenger rail," said Evan Stair, rail advocate.
ODOT believes selling the line would lead to faster upgrades, because the state isn't willing to put money into it now. The lowest estimate for the upgrade is $50 million to get rail service going.