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Passenger Rail Service Is A Step Closer To Making A Comeback In Oklahoma, Lawmakers Announce

OKLAHOMA CITY - Oklahoma Department of Transportation officials have secured a contract to purchase the rail between Oklahoma City and Sapulpa for the purpose of restoring high speed passenger rail service to Oklahoma. Senator Dave Herbert (D-Midwest City) and Representative Mike Tyler (D-Sapulpa) made that announcement today.

"This is an important step toward fulfilling a long-time dream of thousands of Oklahomans," said Senator Herbert. "High speed rail service will not only provide Oklahomans with more transportation options, but it will add an important economic development tool to the sooner state."

ODOT officials will pay Burlington Northern $6.5 million for the line from Oklahoma City to Sapulpa. Funds for the purchase were made available late last year when President Clinton signed into law an Amtrak funding bill. The measure gave Oklahoma $23 million for the purpose of restoring Amtrak service. U.S. Senator Don Nickles was also instrumental in the effort to secure the federal dollars.

The new purchase opens the way for the High Speed Rail Task Force to resume its work. The task force was formed at the request of Senator Herbert and Representative Tyler last year with the hope Oklahoma would receive federal dollars for the restoration of Amtrak service.

"This is an exciting day for Oklahoma transportation," said Representative Tyler. "In the coming weeks, the task force will be meeting for the purpose of establishing the first of three steps aimed at restoring Amtrak service to Oklahoma."

"Now the task force can go back to work with money in its pocket," said Senator Herbert.

First on the task force's agenda is the development of a plan to re-engineer the tracks being purchased for 80 mile per hour passenger rail service. Rail signaling will also have to be updated.

The task force will also study the feasibility of two possible Amtrak routes. One from Newton, Kansas to Oklahoma City to Dallas. The other from Kansas City through Tulsa and Oklahoma City, and on to Dallas.

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Delvin Kinser, Media Specialist, (405) 521-5698