Oklahoma situated well for rail line

Transportation high-speed route would include Tulsa, Oklahoma City

Published: Tuesday, August 25, 2009 7:00 am By: Julie Bisbee

The Oklahoman

Federal funds could be used to build a high-speed rail line between Oklahoma City and Tulsa if an application submitted by the Oklahoma Department of Transportation is approved by the Federal Railroad Administration.

Officials with the Transportation Department plan to apply for $2 billion in federal aid to build a high-speed rail line between Oklahoma's two largest cities and make improvements on an existing passenger line between Oklahoma City and the state line. The department has until Oct. 2 to apply for the funds.

Monday was the first deadline for states to apply for federal stimulus dollars for construction of 11 high-speed rail corridors across the country. Transportation officials across the country have met with the Federal Railroad Administration to discuss the likelihood of rail funding and find out under which section they should apply for funds.

After talks with officials last month, Oklahoma has been advised to apply for funding that has an Oct. 2 deadline, said David Streb, director of engineering for the Transportation Department.

Oklahoma is part of the south-central corridor that stretches from Tulsa south to San Antonio, Texas, with an eastern spur from Fort Worth, Texas, to Little Rock, Ark. The corridor would connect the region with passenger rail hubs in the Kansas City area or provide access to the Chicago hub network, Streb said.

Oklahoma would use the funds to make improvements to the Heartland Flyer rail line between Oklahoma City and the state line to help alleviate congestion between passenger trains and freight trains.

Federal dollars would also be used to build a rail line that runs between Oklahoma City and Tulsa. The trains on that line would travel faster than 150 mph.

While officials continue to work on their application, Streb said Oklahoma is well-positioned to receive federal funds because its part of a corridor that would connect several major metropolitan areas to larger rail networks.

"It's really positive for us when you talk about connecting all the metropolitan areas of the heartland," Streb said.

"We have a strategic advantage to be part of the high-speed rail future of the country," he said.

There is no time line for when states will find out whether they qualify for federal funds, Streb said.

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