Public meeting focused on Heartland Flyer

Sunday, June 1st 2008, 2:01 am
By: News 9

By Charles Bassett, NEWS 9

High gas prices have more people wanting to use alternative modes of transportation, like trains.

Amtrak held a public meeting in Pauls Valley Saturday morning to talk about expanding the Heartland Flyer route north of Oklahoma City.

Right now the proposed plan will take Amtrak to Newton, Kan. It's a service supporters said is desperately needed.

"With the high cost of fuel, various other factors are coming into it," Bob Kemper with the Northern Flyer Alliance said. "With the economy the way it is, it's imperative that we provide this service."

Train service would be from Dallas-Fort Worth through Oklahoma City, then a new connection that would take the Heartland Flyer to Kansas City.

"It's been needed for a long time," Kemper said. "It's economically justifiable; it's just a matter of political will at this point whether we are going to get this accomplished."

Passenger rail supporters said the rail service has helped communities along the Heartland route.

"In four years, about $23 million worth of development has come to Oklahoma independent of the revenues that have been derived off the trains," Mark Corristion with the Northern Flyer Allliance said.

They said the same success can come for cities north of Oklahoma City.

"Guthrie is probably the best example that I can think of, of a very delightful town; has a beautiful station and a very tourist destination-type downtown," Corristion said. "Why shouldn't Amtrak operate out of there as well as Wichita and Topeka?"

The metro would also reap the benefits of the proposed expansion. One plan could call for two trains; one leaving Fort Worth in the morning and another departing from Kansas City.

"And what this does is bring two daylight trains into Oklahoma City, bringing people into Oklahoma City rather than taking them away from Oklahoma City," Kemper said.

Oklahoma City leaders are in favor of the expansion, but Tulsa's City Council members are not. The city said they are paying for a train they never see, and want a route through Tulsa.