ODOT Looking For Ways To Cut Cost Related To Heartland Flyer

Thursday, June 16th 2016, 4:31 pm
By: Karl Torp

The Department of Transportation is exploring the option of using another company to operate the passenger rail line between OKC and Fort Worth, TX.

Amtrak’s Heartland Flyer leaves downtown OKC in the morning and returns from Texas that night. The service started in 1999.

ODOT had to take $500,000 from a passenger rail revolving fund to cover Oklahoma’s $3.3 million cost to operate the passenger train.

Oklahoma legislators just took $5 million from the revolving fund to help fill their $1.3 billion budget gap.

Federal regulations mean the costs have gone up and now ODOT is looking at other carriers.

“We want to do everything we can at exploring ideas to lower those costs,” said Brenda Perry with ODOT.

“I think the message to Amtrak is that we are concerned,” said Perry.

ODOT’s “Request for Qualifications” is due back June 22.

An Amtrak spokesperson confirmed that Amtrak will participate in the request process from ODOT.

The spokesperson said that a pricing formula that must be followed by all carriers will limit much pricing wiggle room.

Meanwhile, passenger rail advocates think OKC and Fort Worth can be served by other operators.

“It’s time for Amtrak to look at if they want to keep their footprint in Oklahoma, because there are other carriers that are interested,” said Evan Stair with Passenger Rail Oklahoma.