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Track flak: Concerns abound in high-speed plan

Track flak: Concerns abound in high-speed plan

The Oklahoman Editorial
Published: September 22, 2009

Those who like to bash the Oklahoma Department of Transportation for "destroying” the prospects of rail service in the state with construction of a new crosstown highway ought to be applauding ODOT for advancing the idea, however fanciful, of high-speed rail between Oklahoma City and Tulsa.

ODOT’s director of engineering, Dave Streb, gave a presentation last week in Tulsa showing how Oklahoma would spend the $2 billion it has asked for from Uncle Sam. The government is planning to distribute $8 billion in stimulus funds for high-speed rail projects around the country.

ODOT says a high-speed train could carry 1,400 people per day between Tulsa and Oklahoma City, and get from one city to the other in roughly an hour. In time, the state’s line could extend from Tulsa to Kansas City, or perhaps St. Louis. "We hope that plays to Oklahoma’s advantage,” Streb told those gathered.

Exciting. But the ODOT plan calls for building a line north of the Turner Turnpike because the existing line isn’t adequate. This isn’t a surprise but should be a concern for taxpayers, as estimates had previously placed the cost of building the new track at about $2 billion. Where would the money come from to buy the train? Another concern: Streb said it could cost $21 million to $22 million per year to operate the Tulsa-Oklahoma City line. Yikes!

ODOT will submit its application early next month and is accepting comments on the plan through the end of this week. Our suggestion: Focus on roads and bridges.

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