Amtrak May Expand To Oklahoma
TULSA COUNTY, Oklahoma - An infusion of cash for Amtrak, to continue existing service on a cross country train, could help Oklahoma secure a connection between Oklahoma City and Kansas a possibly a route through Tulsa.
Rail advocates here were concerned if the line through Kansas, the Southwest Chief, was degraded, it would eliminate any chance of an Oklahoma expansion.
The legislation President Trump signed Friday to keep the government going included $50 million dollars to maintain the current Southwest Chief.
"This is a turning point for passenger rail service in Oklahoma" said Evan Stair of Passenger Rail Oklahoma. "Without the Southwest Chief, the entire regional network of regional rail, future and existing, would have collapsed."
Amtrak's existing nearby routes run across Kansas and Texas, with the Heartland Flyer line extending from Fort Worth to Oklahoma City. The Southwest Chief in Kansas is the most realistic northern connection from Oklahoma City - and it could also connect Oklahoma City, through Tulsa, to Kansas City.
"We always envisioned Tulsa to not be the end of the line, but we always envisioned it go on to Kansas City or St Louis and tie into the rest of the nation that way" said Rick Westcott, a fomer City Councilor from Tulsa. He lobbied for years for a rail connection in Tulsa, without success, and says now the political initiative to carry on with it has waned.
"For the last 3 or 4 years, nothing has come out of City Hall to foster passenger rail from Oklahoma City to Tulsa and we have to have municipal leadership" said Westcott, who said he wasn't blaming any one person. He believes if the Mayors of Oklahoma City and Tulsa teamed up with Governor Kevin Stitt, they would work with cities in between to establish a train connection.
Rail advocates believe any money the state put into establishing rail service or supporting the existing Amtrak service, would be more than paid back with development along the rail line.