All aboard for the Eastern Flyer
BY BOB D. ROUNSAVELL
Friday, April 20, 2012
4/20/12 at 3:45 AM
Tulsa remains one of the country's large cities without passenger rail service. The last passenger train left Tulsa decades ago and we are now the fifth-largest metropolitan area without passenger rail service.
While Oklahoma City enjoys daily service to Fort Worth, Tulsans must get in their cars and travel down the busy Turner Turnpike in order to hook up with the train.
But there is hope out there on the horizon for the nearly 1 million folks living in the greater Tulsa area. Last year's Oklahoma legislative session produced House Bill 1686, entitled the Eastern Flyer Passenger Rail Development Task Force, with the mission of developing public-private partnership financing for daily passenger train service between our state's two largest cities
The task force will also look at the potential for high-speed trains. The bridge currently under construction across the Arkansas River just south of downtown Tulsa will be capable of carrying all types of passenger trains from light rail to commuter rail to regional passenger trains, as well as high-speed passenger trains.
There are a number of reasons why Oklahoma needs to develop passenger rail service; most of them are economic. Once the gasoline price reaches the $4 mark, many residents will be looking at mass transit possibilities and currently Oklahoma has too few mass transit options. Inter-city passenger rail service represents a much-needed option.
Communities along the Eastern Flyer train route will see a positive economic impact. If you don't believe that, you might want to look at the Texas Transportation Institute Study released in 2010. This research project measured the benefits of inter-city passenger rail along the Heartland Flyer between Oklahoma City and Fort Worth. Communities on this route, including Norman, Purcell, Ardmore and Duncan, all had significant revenue increases directly tied to the daily Heartland Flyer train service.
Just imagine being able to board the Eastern Flyer in Tulsa for the relaxing train ride to Oklahoma City. No more stressful drive along the Turner Turnpike. You can prepare for your meeting and also enjoy the scenery alongside Historic Route 66 for much of the trip and be relaxed for your meeting in OKC.
You might need to rent a car for the day. However, you won't need to drive back that night - you just let the engineer take care of the trip while you enjoy the services the train will offer. Just think, you arrive back in Tulsa that night, well rested and fed.
Thanks to visionary Oklahomans back in the 1960s and '70s, Oklahoma purchased more than 1,000 miles of track infrastructure. Today we still own more than 400 miles of track and that includes the old Frisco line from Oklahoma City to Sapulpa. The state needs to develop its unique asset of railroad tracks and the corresponding right of way before more of it is sold off.
Once again, Oklahoma finds itself in a win-win situation. Will we be smart enough to utilize our position to benefit our residents for decades to come? Or will we fail to act in time and let another opportunity escape our grasp? Will we fear the potential for a bright tomorrow? Or will we again dare to reach into the future for the greatness we claimed for ourselves in the first century of our existence?
Bob D. Rounsavell, of Oologah, is a member of the Eastern Flyer Passenger Rail Development Task Force.
A 2010 study showed that communities on the Heartland Flyer's route, including Norman, Purcell, Ardmore and Duncan, all had significant revenue increases directly tied to the daily train service. Tulsa World file
Bob D. Rounsavell: The state needs to develop its unique asset of railroad track