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ODOT officials detail high-speed rail proposal

ODOT officials detail high-speed rail proposal

by: GAVIN OFF World Data Editor
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
9/16/2009 3:51:41 AM

A high-speed train from Tulsa to Oklahoma City could carry about 1,400 people a day and take about an hour to link the two cities.

That time increases to about 72 minutes if park-and-ride locations are built in addition to the main stations in each city, said David Streb, director of engineering for the Oklahoma Department of Transportation.

Streb outlined the department's high-speed rail hopes for about 90 people who attended a public meeting Tuesday night.

The Transportation De partment plans to request nearly $2 billion in federal stimulus money to build the high-speed rail line. The federal government has allotted about $8 billion for high-speed rail projects, and Oklahoma's share, if granted, would come from that.

"This is a very unique opportunity," Streb said. "This isn't taking away from highway money or bridge money."

The bulk of Oklahoma's possible money would be used to build a high-speed rail line north of the Turner Turnpike. Streb said state officials have analyzed the current rail line connecting the cities and found that it couldn't support the 150-mph speeds of high-speed trains.

Other monies would go toward improving the Heartland Flyer, which has linked Oklahoma City and Fort Worth for 10 years.

Trains on that route now travel at an average speed of 60 mph, with a top speed of about 79 mph in Oklahoma, an ODOT official said.

With improvements, those trains could reach a top speed of about 90 mph and eventually could connect Tulsa to San Antonio.

Officials also said they hope the state's rail line eventually could be extended north from Tulsa to Kansas City, Mo., or St. Louis and possibly Chicago.

"We hope that that plays to Oklahoma's advantage," Streb said. "Certainly that's a key part of our application."

The final application for the money is due Oct. 2.

But for now, many specifics about a possible link between Tulsa and Oklahoma City are unknown.

For instance, it's unclear how much a ride would cost or how the line would be subsidized.

Streb said it would cost $21 million to $22 million a year to operate the line, which he said likely would include a partnership with the state and the two cities.

Despite the uncertainty, most people at the meeting support the plan. Some said they hope Oklahoma will proceed with the plan even if it doesn't receive all the money it requests.

"There are a lot of us here who want to get off the Turner Turnpike," said Bob Rounsavell of Oologah.

Residents have until Sept. 25 to submit comments on the plan. The Department of Transportation will include the comments with its final application.

People who want to comment on the project may e-mail Johnson Bridgwater of ODOT's Rail Program Division at jbridgwater@odot.org or send letters to ODOT Rail Division, 200 NE 21st St., Room 3-D6. Oklahoma City, OK 73105.

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