Despite enthusiastic support for three upcoming passenger railroad trips between Tulsa and Oklahoma City in February, the Eastern Flyer could already be looking at the end of the line. Tulsa Republican Brian Crain was the Senate author of legislation passed in 2011 creating a task force examining restoration of passenger rail service between the two metros. Crain said he was extremely disappointed to learn that the Oklahoma Department of Transportation (ODOT), which owns the tracks, has set a January 30 deadline for bids to sell the rail line that will carry the Eastern Flyer.
“The three upcoming Eastern Flyer excursions have nearly sold out. That shows how much enthusiasm and support there is to bring back passenger service between Tulsa and Oklahoma City—something we haven’t had since 1967,” Crain said. “This line represents tremendous economic development potential, not only for the two metro areas, but for communities along the line as well. I think it would be a huge mistake for ODOT to put the brakes on this remarkable project by selling the rail line.”
ODOT reportedly has set opening bids at $9.1 million with a deadline of January 30.
Crain pointed to a report showing the Heartland Flyer had resulted in multiple benefits for local economies and for public safety. The 2009 study showed estimated passengers spent more than $18 million in communities along that line, with more than $1.3 million of that collected in local sales taxes. It was also found that more than 39,000 vehicle trips were diverted to the Heartland Flyer in ’09, resulting in an estimated reduction of 7.9 million vehicle-miles traveled on the corridor roadways.
“Although ODOT officials have reportedly said they had planned to sell the line since first purchasing it in 1998, many Eastern Flyer supporters didn’t know about ODOT’s January 30 deadline,” Crain said. “I’m told officials have indicated they might be willing to lease the line to companies that would operate a passenger service. That option would provide far more benefit to the people of this state in the long run. I strongly urge ODOT not to derail the Eastern Flyer.”