Private company interested in Tulsa to OKC passenger rail

TULSA - A private company has expressed interest in bringing passenger rail service between the state's two largest cities, according to a member of an advisory board looking into the issue.

Linking Tulsa and Oklahoma City by passenger rail is often met with a lot of skepticism, mainly because the idea has been tossed around for years.

Yet, nothing has ever taken off.

Former Tulsa City Councilor Rick Westcott said despite the skepticism, passenger rail between the two cities is really not as far out as it would seem.

Wescott says if a plan were approved by the legislature, it would take no more than three years for service to begin.

"If anybody tells us it's going to take more than three years, they don't have all their facts," said Westcott.

Westcott is chairman of the board that advises the state task force studying this issue.

Westcott says a private company has expressed interest in developing a passenger rail line between the two metropolitan areas.

He says they would do it by turning an existing rail line that transports freight into one that could transport passengers.

"I talked to a private company a couple of weeks ago, who interestingly enough would be willing to pay to rehabilitate the existing line that the state owns, also pay to put the rolling stock on the rail and pay to operate the service, all at their cost, at no cost to the taxpayers," said Westcott.

Westcott says the company told him they could have it all done in about six months.

Westcott did not want to identify the company because he said he did not want to jeopardize any potential negotiations between the company and the state.

The task force studying this issue was created in 2011 in a bill authored by State Sen. Brian Crain, R-Tulsa.

Like Westcott, Crain believes passenger rail service would be in Tulsa's interest.

"We need to start thinking about 50 years from now, 60 years from now," said Crain. "What is it that we need to have in Tulsa in order to allow people to come and go in our community, to do business, to live, to enjoy the adventure of being in Tulsa?"

The task force is expected to release its final report by the end of the year, although Crain said it could ask for more time if necessary.

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