State Lawmakers Fight ODOT On Sale Of Public Railroads

Sunday, March 9th 2014, 9:39 pm
By: News On 6

Oklahoma lawmakers are urging the Oklahoma Department of Transportation not to sell a piece of railroad which connects Northeastern Oklahoma to the rest of the state.

Lawmakers are fearful if ODOT sells the piece of track connecting the two cities, commuting between them by rail wouldn't become a reality.

"We need to make sure Tulsa and Northeast Oklahoma are represented, and if we can have passenger rail service and if it's something that the people in Northeast Oklahoma want to use we want to make it available to them," State Sen. Brian Crain, (R-Tulsa) said.

The railroad connecting Tulsa and Oklahoma City is up for sale.

Lawmakers have several proposals on the table they say would help secure passenger rail service between Tulsa and Oklahoma City.

In February, the Eastern Flyer passenger train sold out on several round trips to Oklahoma City.

2/9/2014: Related Story: Passenger Rail Makes Debut With Round Trip From Sapulpa

Supporters for passenger rail service on that line say if ODOT sells the railroad, people wanting passenger rail service would be at the mercy of private owners and their busy freight schedules.

This demand has lawmakers like Crain urging ODOT to stop the sale of the track known as the Sooner Sub.

"Right now,we're fighting to make sure there's a rail system that's available for us to use once we've figured out ‘How do we reestablish what for years which is essential to the Tulsa area, which is passenger rail service,'"

Crain is authoring a bill that would require lawmakers and the governor to approve any future railroad sales.

"You can take the existing track starting with the Eastern Flyer and do a whole lot with it," passenger rail supporter Bob Rounsavell said.

Supporters say private rail operators are proposing daily express trips between Tulsa and OKC.

Rounsavell says the Sooner Sub would help Tulsans reach the Heartland Flyer in Oklahoma City.

"If we keep control of this property, then we control our own destiny and we create a new industry for the 21st Century," he said.

Lawmakers are also proposing the creation of an Oklahoma Railways Commission, which would control the operation of the state-owned railways.

Supporters are hopeful Iowa Pacific will be running the Eastern Flyer passenger rail service would begin as early as October.