TULSA, Okla. (AP) The continued viability of the Heartland Flyer rail line could be increased if state leaders decided to extend it from Oklahoma City to Tulsa, an Amtrak official said Friday.
The line, which runs from Oklahoma City to Fort Worth, Texas, once a day, now carries about 68,000 passengers annually. Tulsa now is the fifth-largest metropolitan area in the U.S. without passenger rail service.
If the Heartland Express line is to be extended, the state, which already provides $3.9 million annually in funding for the route, would have to pay for it, because Amtrak is only expanding service in states that completely cover the cost of doing so.
``I want to save the Heartland Flyer, and the way to do that is to provide an opportunity for it to grow,'' said Ray Lang, Amtrak's senior director of government affairs.
``By broadening passenger rail service in the state and increasing its frequency, you would make the Heartland Flyer more relevant to the Amtrak system,'' he said during a Tulsa forum attended by about 20 elected local and state officials.
Tulsa Councilman Rick Westcott, a supporter of bringing passenger rail service to Tulsa, has expressed interest in a Tulsa-to-Springfield, Missouri, rail line, but said an Oklahoma City to Tulsa line would also be a good idea.
``They're the experts,'' he said of Amtrak officials. ``The ultimate goal is for Tulsa to have passenger rail service, going east or west.''
Lang said that if efforts aren't made to make the Heartland Flyer route stronger and the line is lost, ``you'll never get passenger rail service to Tulsa.''
The Oklahoma Department of Transportation and the Indian Nations Council of Governments have said they would pay for a study to examine the viability of extending the Heartland Flyer line. The cost of that study is not yet known, said Joe Kyle, the rail program divisions manager for ODOT.