|Updated: 1/14/2011 10:52 pm
||Published: 1/14/2011 9:25 pm
Passenger rail service from Tulsa to Oklahoma City may soon become a reality. Leaders with Passenger Rail Oklahoma met with city and state leaders Friday to discuss logistics of a future rail service.
Under the proposal, the state would spend $26 million to update and improve existing rail lines. The Amtrak service would be about a two-hour, thirty-minute ride.
"i think it's an excellent idea," Commuter rail service supporter Pam Iacoe said. "I believe it's a long time coming. i believe that a lot of people in this city will use it. I believe that there are an enormous number of people that would rather ride than drive."
Iacoe can't say enough good things about the idea of passenger rail service between the two cities. Neither can Broken Arrow resident Michael Foster.
"That would save wear and tear on your vehicle and gas, and as long as it was affordable [I would support it]."
Tulsa city councilor Rick Westcott says comfort is another reason to consider the rail service.
"Your seat on an Amtrak train is about the same as a first class seat on an airplane," Westcott said. "You can work, you can take your laptop. Amtrak provides internet service. you can be productive on the train, whereas you're driving your car the other way."
While no location for a Tulsa train station has been decided on at this point, Westcott says the old Union Station - which now serves as the Jazz Hall of Fame - would be a perfect spot because it's centrally located and already sits right next to the tracks."
Foster says there are other non-business advantages to a rail line as well.
"You could go down there and see an Oklahoma City thunder basketball game, go to Bricktown, spend your day down there," Foster said.
"It's just time," Iacoe said. "This part of the country needs to join the rest of the country and start group travel."
But there are also economic reasons supporters of the passenger service say the state needs to move ahead with the proposal.
"To attract other companies to this area we need to have something of that nature," Foster said. "A commuter service that would attract companies. That would make us seem like we're a bigger metro area."
Foster says he knows asking for $26 million from the state budget in this economic climate could be a hard sell. But he says even if the state funds aren't there, the project is worth pursuing by other means anyway.
"If they have to raise taxes a penny here I wouldn't mind paying the extra, as long as it was going to something to improve the community," Foster said.
Westcott says it would be a smart investment of the funds for the State of Oklahoma.
"For the Heartland Flyer from Oklahoma City to Dallas the economic return is about three-and-a-half to one. For every dollar spent there is an economic investment return of about $3.50. So the $26 million is not just money that's thrown down a rat hole. It's an economic investment."
Foster says if that if there's that potential in a rail line from Tulsa to Oklahoma City, it should be a pretty simple business decision.
"Definitely, if those are the return numbers for something between Oklahoma City and Dallas, then definitely it's worth looking into in a serious nature [here]."
There's no word yet on how much tickets to ride the train would cost, but Fox 23 asked several people how much they would be willing to pay, and we heard anything from $10 to $30 each way. Most people said that between the $8 in tolls round trip to make the drive, and the cost of gas these days, they expect the train ticket price likely wouldn't be much more expensive than driving.