April 14, 2022 - TRA Newswire -
Now that the Oklahoma City Council approved a resolution supporting the daily Heartland Flyer and expansion north to Kansas, Amtrak representatives are optimistic that the plan can work within a 5-year timeline. Last year the Oklahoma legislature passed a resolution in favor of the expansion.
Extension of the daily train that begins its journey in Fort Worth would open up rail travel opportunities into Wichita, other Kansas destinations including Kansas City and across to the West and East coasts.
Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt, citing the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill that was passed by Congress last year, said that the new law allows for expansion under the railroad's 2035 vision called Amtrak ConnectsUS.
"When you can connect in Kansas, suddenly it really opens up the West Coast and the Northeast to Oklahoma passengers,” according to Holt.
The Texas Department of Transportation and the Oklahoma Department of Transportation partner in the current service that started in June 1999. One train leaves Fort Worth in the evening and the southbound train leaves Oklahoma City in the morning. The expansion plan would also call for two additional daily round trips between Fort Worth and Oklahoma City.
The expansion plan would mean more stretches of double track and sidings along with other upgrades would be required on the BNSF owned line. That figure could be in the $500 million range but Amtrak has indicated that new service would be eligible for a program that would relieve states of start-up costs. Instead, Amtrak would absorb the initial costs on a sliding scale until ridership and revenue increase for the service.
Last June Amtrak President Stephen Gardner and CEO William Flynn said the expansion is a high priority for the passenger railroad and would added between 100,000 and 200,000 passengers annually. The estimated annual positive economic impact to towns and cities served would be close to $65 million.
Photo credit: Oklahoma.gov