12 August 2007
The train from Kansas City
The Save the Rails rally yesterday dealt specifically with the preservation of the Union Station railyard and the potential reinstatement of the old Interurban rail lines. This is not, however, the only passenger-rail issue facing the state, and at the rally there was a representative of the Northern Flyer Alliance, a group which seeks the expansion of Amtrak's existing Heartland Flyer, which currently runs between Oklahoma City and Fort Worth, into northern Oklahoma and eastern Kansas.
In late July, the Alliance organized a meeting in Wichita with various Kansas officials and an Amtrak representative, making the pitch that the existing Flyer was worth $3.8 million a year in economic development in Oklahoma and Texas. Nothing in transportation happens overnight, and Amtrak apparently is not permitted to undertake expansion studies using federal funds, so Kansas and Oklahoma (and maybe Texas) would have to put up the dollars for a route study.
NFA's proposed route would extend the Heartland Flyer northward more or less parallel to US 77, connecting to the Southwest Chief at Newton, Kansas, and then northeastward to Kansas City. The Chief, which connects Chicago and Los Angeles, already runs between Newton and Kansas City, but in the wee hours of the morning.
Unspoken in any of this is the actual cost, and there's an addtional problem: BNSF freight services are quite busy along the existing track, meaning windows of opportunity to run a passenger train will be limited. And if there's an elephant in the room, it's Amtrak's always-tenuous financial condition. I don't consider any of these to be entirely insurmountable, though it's going to take a lot of work to pull this off.
And if you thought this should have been called "The train to Kansas City," you're obviously not a Shangri-Las fan.Posted at 4:48 AM to Soonerland