Rep. Morrissette hopeful for Oklahoma passenger rail
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Published: 09-Dec-2014

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Regular service between Sapulpa and Midwest City, with connective service into Tulsa and Oklahoma city, will begin early in 2015, and, through the holidays, a specialty passenger train will run out of the newly renovated Bristow depot as the Polar Express, to provide a holiday experience for children and families. 

At a recent Oklahoma City Council meeting, calls from the Mayor and councilmen for regular rail service directly into the Downtown Santa Fe depot were expressed. State Rep. Richard Morrissette, D-Oklahoma City, is hopeful now that the political will exists to address the issues previously preventing daily direct rail entry into both of our state’s major cities’ depots for arrival and departure.

“It was 2011 when I passed the Eastern Flyer legislation. I am excited to learn that recent trial efforts to put rail back on the line between Oklahoma City and Tulsa have been successful,” Morrissette said in a press release this week.

Morrissette has joined rail advocates to engage the state in the latest effort to increase passenger rail service in Oklahoma, specifically to extend the Heartland Flyer from Fort Worth all the way to Tulsa. (The Flyer now terminates in Oklahoma City.)

In 2011, Morrissette passed House Bill1686 with the following language: “There is hereby created the Eastern Flyer Passenger Rail Development Task Force. The purpose of the task force is to study and develop a comprehensive plan for expanding conventional passenger rail service as well as high speed passenger rail service from Tulsa to Oklahoma City via public-private partnership formulas that include Department of Transportation grants and state funding allocations in conjunction with private asset contribution.”

Traveling by rail is a nostalgic experience. And, compared to air or personal vehicle, trains are classy yet practical in that riders are completely in charge of their own time during the journey, whether it’s to rest and take in the view or work on an electronic device or enjoy drinks and dining. And, advocates contend, rail offers travel with the least damage to the environment and other infrastructure.

Dedicated volunteer rail advocates in Oklahoma have pushed for this service, literally for decades. "This is an exciting time for Oklahoma. Passenger Rail Oklahoma is happy to have played a small role in helping bring passenger rail back to the rail line extending between Oklahoma City and Tulsa.

 This is just the beginning of our efforts to promote economic development in the city's two largest metropolitan areas and even more so in the smaller communities bypassed in 1953 when the Turner Turnpike was completed. One need only visit Bristow this holiday season, with the Polar Express, to understand what passenger rail service can bring to small town Oklahoma. It appears new life has been breathed into this community of just under 3,000. We look forward to continuing our work in the state to further develop this economically significant transportation source," said Evan Stair, President, Passenger Rail Oklahoma.

Regular service between Midwest City to Sapulpa, with deluxe connecting transportation into Oklahoma City and Tulsa will begin in early 2015. Iowa Pacific Holdings will operate the service. See link for details. Eastern Flyer FAQ URL.

Information for the "The Polar Express"

When: Now through Dec. 28.
Where: Bristow Depot, One Railroad Place, Bristow.
Ticket prices: $35 to $75 for adults; $35 to $85 for adults with babe in arms; and $25 to $65 for children ages 2 to 12. Contact (855) 847-1430 or www.easternflyerpolarexpressride.com

Packages: Hotel and ticket packages are available at (800) 783-0783.

“My office named this train and we are feeling kind of like parents sending their child out into the world. The popular success of this effort is entirely in the hands of Oklahomans. Without ridership, we will not succeed,” Morrissette concluded.

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