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With a new administration in D.C., it's time to think outside of the box because passenger rail's survival just may depend on it

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

A pivotal moment for Oklahoma

Last week, the state of Oklahoma officially put up the 97.5 miles of rail line it owns for sale and received bids from four companies:

  1. BNSF, from whom the state bought the line in 1998
  2. Watco Companies, which has trackage rights on parts of the route 
  3. Iowa Pacific Holdings, which is jointly operating the Eastern Flyer with Watco-owned Stillwater Central Railroad 
  4. Fortress Incorporated, owner of All Aboard Florida and Florida East Coast 

The Eastern Flyer sold out at the end of last year and is scheduled to make two more roundtrips between the Oklahoma City and Tulsa metro areas this month following Sunday's inaugural run. The state would be crazy to jeopardize the possibility of private entities running passenger trains

Some reports quote groups who have suggested that the private effort is somehow an affront to plans of extending the Heartland Flyer from Oklahoma City to Wichita via Newton, KS. There is no need for the zero-sum mentality has to stop because there's no reason why the Heartland Flyer couldn't coexist with the Eastern Flyer one bit. How the state is willing to sell the line by April or May yet not be done with a separate feasibility study for Oklahoma City-Tulsa route until mid 2015 is perplexing to me.

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