Progress on OKC-Tulsa passenger rail service

TULSA - While Tulsa has a rich railroad history, it's been several decades since passengers road the rails. But that could soon change.

A plan to create passenger rail service between Tulsa and Oklahoma City is one step closer to becoming a reality. On Thursday the Tulsa Advisory Committee submitted it's report to the state Eastern Flyer Task Force.

The chairman of the advisory committee tells 2NEWS, some of the obstacles he worried about are no longer a factor -- bring the project closer to becoming a reality than it's ever been before.

Chairman Rick Wescott says a private carrier could get the project done in just six months and at a much lower cost than earlier estimates.

"Our initial figures were it would cost $120 to $150 million to have the job completed. But we talked to a private carrier who is in the business of doing this, and they say they can repair the track, bring it up to passenger standard,"  Westcott said. "And they will provide the service and provide the trains for a state investment of only $50 million."

The state of Oklahoma owns the rail way from Oklahoma City to Sapulpa. But Burlington Northern Santa fe Railroad owns the stretch of track from Sapulpa to Tulsa. Wescott had worried that only Amtrak would be allowed to use that corridor. But he says after talking with company representatives at Thursday's meeting, that's no longer the case.

"They (BNSF) are willing to discuss, willing to negotiate with the state of Oklahoma or any private entity that the state might contract with," Wescott said. "So what we thought was going to be a big problem is not."

"I grew up in a railroad family. My dad, my granddad, my great granddad -- all three were railroad men. And I had a chance to work on the Frisco railroad during the summers back in the 1970's," said Mike Massey.

Massey's family history is steeped in the railroad. He's even leading the restoration of the historic trains at the Route 66 Village in West Tulsa. He hopes to see passenger service once again become a reality for Tulsa in the near future.
    
"It's part of my past," Massey said. "I would love for other people to experience the thrill of riding a train like I got to enjoy as child."

In December the state task force will present it's plan to the Governor and lawmakers. It will be up to them to create legislation to fund the Eastern Flyer.

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