Oklahoma's only passenger rail service will soon be faster and better, according to a state legislator who has worked hard to expand Amtrak's presence in the state.
State Senator Dave Herbert said the Heartland Flyer will be able to increase its speed and add a lounge-dinette car, thanks to actions taken by the Oklahoma Department of Transportation.
"The Heartland Flyer is already a great success, but these latest additions are going to make it even more popular. Riders will be able to get to and from Fort Worth faster, and they'll be able to do it in grander style in a new lounge car. It's like upgrading from a sedan to a limousine," said Senator Herbert.
According to the Midwest City legislator, ODOT has approved the purchase of $2.9 million in grade crossing warning equipment on the rail line between Oklahoma City and the Red River. The improvements will allow the Heartland Flyer to increase its current maximum speed from 60 mph to 79 mph.
"One of the few complaints about the Flyer has been the travel time. By increasing the train's speed, we can shave some time off the trip and make the service more user friendly, both for business travelers and tourists. I think that will help us attract new passengers and improve our record on
repeat riders," noted Senator Herbert.
ODOT is also nearing an agreement with Amtrak that will allow it to replace the current "cafe-coach" passenger car with an actual "lounge-dinette" car. The new car will have tables and lounge areas where passengers can eat and chat, unlike the current car that requires them to purchase food at a cafe counter and then return to their seats.
"I think that will make the Heartland Flyer a much more enjoyable experience for passengers. People are tired of getting packed into cars and airplanes like sardines. They want to be able stretch out and socialize so they can relax and have fun. That's what we'll be able to offer them on the Flyer," said Senator Herbert.
The lawmaker predicts that the improvements will make the already popular Heartland Flyer even more of a hit in Oklahoma, providing momentum to ongoing efforts to expand passenger rail service throughout the state. Senator Herbert has been working to extend rail lines through northern
Oklahoma and Tulsa, ultimately linking the state with Kansas City and Chicago.
"The more popular the Heartland Flyer is, the better our chances of expanding passenger rail service in Oklahoma. We've developed a first rate line between Oklahoma City and Fort Worth. There's no reason to think we can't do the same thing throughout the rest of the state," said Senator