A number of residents took time out of their schedules Tuesday afternoon to take part in a Texas-Oklahoma Passenger Rail Study. The Texas and Oklahoma Departments of Transportation as well as the Federal Railroad Administration coordinated the effort.
The open house in Ardmore is one of several taking place throughout Oklahoma and Texas and is designed to gain input from citizens on what they would like to see in enhanced services.
"We are looking for public comments to see what people want us to study," Kirsten Skadberg, a consultant for the project, said. "There are no options nailed down. This is general information about the process."
A number of placards were placed around the Santa Fe Depot with information regarding future congestion along the I-35 corridor. Information also included possibilities of higher speed trains with direct access to more places including San Antonio. The study will also look at environmental impacts.
"We want to get input about what kinds of service needs to be in play," Jennifer Moczygemba, TxDOT Rail System Section Director, said.
Services included shorter travel time between cities and station amenities. Moczygemba said potential improvements are seen as a potential mode of congestion relief. Following public input, a business development plan will be produced.
"We are getting to a point where other modes of transportation are becoming unreliable because of congestion," Moczygemba said. It was issues of congestion that the conversation has begun about expanding services from Oklahoma to south central Texas.
"We are looking for the potential to be better by going faster or providing new services like stops in Dallas or San Antonio," she said. "So far, I think we have had a lot of good questions. There is interest from an environmental perspective."
The study does not guarantee implementation of new services, as financing will be the determining factor. Moczygemba said there would be value in having the study in place should public interest drive the expansion of rail services into a reality. She also said it would allow investors to know what the public wants.
The study is in the scoping phase, which is the first step in the federal environment documentation process. Comments can be submitted through April 26. To find out more about the study, log onto www.TXOKrail.org.