Oklahoma's bid to bring passenger rail service back to the state is getting a shot in the arm from two neighbors. Both Kansas and Texas are taking the first steps to forming an alliance with Oklahoma, thus strengthening the region's chance of landing a new Amtrak line.
"If we present a united front, it gives us a much better chance of landing passenger rail service in Oklahoma. Kansas and Texas have realized what we've known in Oklahoma for years; that Amtrak service would be a great boost to the area economy. They're looking to jump on the train and we're welcoming them aboard" said Senator Dave Herbert.
Senator Herbert and Representative Mike Tyler made the announcement at a State Capitol news conference today. The two lawmakers are co-chairs of the Oklahoma task force on Amtrak.
At the same time the legislators were announcing the proposed alliance, a Kansas state lawmaker was formally unveiling a resolution to create a joint Amtrak task force, composed of officials from Oklahoma and Kansas. Representative Ed McKechnie wants the special panel to be charged with negotiating for rail service between the two states.
Another state legislator in Texas has expressed interest in joining an Amtrak coalition as well.
Given the interest in the neighboring states, the lawmakers indicated they would push for the three states to pool their resources and form a formal alliance or compact. A formal alliance would give the three-states much better bargaining power in the regionÕs bid for passenger rail service.
"The simple fact is it's easier to get noticed if you have two other states standing beside you, especially when one of them is one of the largest states in the country. Locking arms with Kansas and Texas makes us a much more serious contender for passenger rail service," said Rep. Tyler.
The lawmakers pointed out that other states in the country are competing for extended Amtrak service, but to date, none have formed alliances like the one Oklahoma, Kansas and Texas are contemplating.
"We're certainly not alone in this race, but we could sure be a lot more competitive if we got some powerful allies on our side. With an alliance that puts our three influential Congressional delegations all on one team, we'll have the edge we need," said Senator Herbert.
The Oklahoma-Kansas-Texas alliance is a natural one, according to the Midwest City legislator, because the extended Amtrak service he has been pushing for would link the three states. The most likely route would link Kansas City, Oklahoma City and the Dallas-Forth Worth area.
In the weeks and months to come, the lawmakers will be working with state officials in Texas and Kansas, trying to form one formal alliance.