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High-speed rail coming to Oklahoma?

High-speed rail coming to Oklahoma?

OKLAHOMA CITY – Only those who have been to Europe or Japan have seen what a real high-speed rail line can do, transportation officials told lawmakers on Thursday. But the federal government is putting up the money to make high-speed rail a reality in the U.S. – maybe even in Oklahoma.

Tulsa and Oklahoma City are the northernmost points on a proposed high-speed rail corridor extending down to Austin and San Antonio, Texas, which has already been approved by federal transportation officials. The U.S. Department of Transportation has approved about a dozen high-speed rail corridors around the country. But with costs of construction extending into the millions or billions for true high-speed rail, few of the projects have progressed beyond the beginning stages.

“No high-speed rail exists yet in the U.S.,” Gary Ridley, director of the Oklahoma Department of Transportation, told members of the House Transportation Committee on Thursday. “But there is potential.”

High-speed rail refers to passenger trains that operate at speeds exceeding 124 miles per hour. The closest thing to high-speed rail available in the U.S. today is Amtrak’s Acela service, running from Washington, D.C., to New York and north to Boston. The trip takes approximately two hours and 46 minutes at an average speed of 86 miles per hour – about half the speed of France's TGV trains.

President Barack Obama has made a few public comments in support of high-speed rail for the U.S. as a means to ease travel congestion while reducing the nation’s dependence on oil, cutting pollution and creating jobs.

Included in the $787 billion stimulus plan Obama signed in February was $8 billion for high-speed rail projects across the country, available as grants to states issued on a competitive basis. By June, federal officials are expected to provide guidance to states on how to apply for the funds.

California is perceived to have an advantage in the competition, being the furthest along in the effort to build a high-speed rail line between San Francisco and Los Angeles. Voters in California have already agreed to commit millions in bond issues to the effort, building a rail line capable of handling speeds of more than 220 miles per hour.

The $8 billion could go quickly, given the high costs associated with building high-speed rail lines. The California project alone is estimated at $50 billion.

In Oklahoma, officials have often considered building passenger rail service to connect Oklahoma City and Tulsa. Consultant Jack Webb of Texas-based J. Webb and Associates said the Tulsa-Oklahoma City connection will one day be essential to a nationwide effort to connect major cities via rail lines. Other lines considered by both state and federal officials include links between Tulsa and Newton, Kan., and Oklahoma City through to Kansas City, Mo.

But before any lines can be seriously considered, four qualifiers must be met, said Ridley. The service in question must be convenient to users, dependable, affordable and subsidized.

A passenger rail line extending from Oklahoma City through Tulsa to Kansas City could be created relatively inexpensively by upgrading existing lines owned by the state, a process that would take five to seven years to complete, Ridley said. Trains would travel no more than 70 miles per hour, and with the delays of making stops and slowing for at-grade crossings, travel by train between Oklahoma City and Tulsa would be no faster than driving the distance along the Turner Turnpike.

A new, high-speed rail line could be constructed by extending the right of way for the turnpike, but the cost of such a project would require an investment of about $250 million, Ridley said.

1 comment (Add your own)

1. Robert Roseboro wrote:
Tom Cole got several million dollars from DOT for Oklahoma several years ago.
Two proposals were widing the turnpikes to six lanes or bring passenger link services between OKC and Tulsa. Tom chose the turnpikes. Why wasn't a vote
presented to people. Oklahoma representatives think their citizens are not smart
enough to think for themselves.

In Tom's own words, he stated that "It'll be a waste, the people won't use it."

I rode high speed rail in Europe during the 70's. It is better that air. You get
4 or 5 star food, sight seeing unbelievable, and sleeping cars. I don't like pushing that pedal up and down the interstate. Driving is too much like working.

Don't forget during 911, all flights were cancelled and people were stranded.

Rail service is the way to go.

Sat, March 21, 2009 @ 4:55 AM

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