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Oklahoma rail plan hits fast track

Oklahoma rail plan hits fast track

Obama unveils $8 billion high-speed proposal, and Oklahoma is ready to apply for the funds

BY CHRIS CASTEEL
Published: April 17, 2009

WASHINGTON — Oklahoma officials are ready to seek federal stimulus funds to push for making the state part of a high-speed passenger rail corridor.

"We’re totally positioned and ready to apply for that process,” said Terri Angier, spokeswoman for the Oklahoma Department of Transportation.

President Barack Obama announced Thursday that $8 billion is being made available from the $787 billion economic stimulus package for high-speed rail development in the country. States and localities will have to apply for funds, and Angier said the state has been anticipating the process and is prepared for it.

The south central corridor, which includes Oklahoma City, Tulsa, San Antonio, Dallas/Fort Worth, Austin and Little Rock, was one of 10 identified by the Federal Railroad Administration on Thursday for potential high-speed rail projects.

David Streb, engineering director at the Transportation Department, said, "We’re eyeballing this very clearly. We know there are some opportunities.”

Streb said he is optimistic the state’s designation as a high-speed corridor in 2000 and its preparation for the application process would pay off.

Obama said Thursday, "My high-speed rail proposal will lead to innovations that change the way we travel in America. We must start developing clean, energy-efficient transportation that will define our regions for centuries to come.

"A major new high-speed rail line will generate many thousands of construction jobs over several years, as well as permanent jobs for rail employees and increased economic activity in the destinations these trains serve. High-speed rail is long overdue, and this plan lets American travelers know that they are not doomed to a future of long lines at the airports or jammed cars on the highways.”

Matt Dowty, chairman of Oklahoma Rail, which promotes passenger rail service, said the group "is delighted that President Obama is prioritizing modern trains as a signature item in his transportation policy and we believe our state leaders ought to position the state to take advantage of that.”

He said trains can’t go faster today because "most of Oklahoma’s rail lines sit on 19th century alignments with excessive curvature and insufficient capacity. New federal funds could be used to modernize these routes in order to reduce travel times and increase reliability and service frequency.”

Streb said extensive studies would be needed about the condition of rail lines in the state and whether some would need to be replaced or shared with commercial freight companies that use them.

According to the Federal Railroad Administration, grants could be distributed by late this summer.

1 comment (Add your own)

1. Marlene Goodman wrote:
I think that the proposed high-speed rail for Oklahoma will be a positive step up for improvements of the new century. Oklahoma needs to be up-to-date with things like this. I hope that it is approved. It stands to help a lot of Oklahomans and our economy.

Fri, April 17, 2009 @ 8:49 PM

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