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Will Tulsa miss out on high-speed rail?

As Oklahoma City tries to expand the city’s Amtrak routes, some rail advocates are afraid Tulsa will be left out of a possible national high-speed rail network.

Oklahoma City’s route to Fort Worth was saved in recent federal budget talks and now the city has applied to obtain additional service to Kansas City.

There are concerns that future rail development will bypass Eastern Oklahoma.

A route between this area and the state capital has been talked about for years.

Tulsa businessman Joh M. McGrath operates McGrath Construction, which is a company that’s been designing, building and maintaining railroads, since 1865.

He said this area needs to position itself to be a part of any future network because transportation choices are important.

A rail network has been discussed as an alternative to crowded interstate highways and overbooked airlines. McGrath said the U.S. needs to embrace modern rail technology that’s in use all over the world. He said, “We’re talking about a modern rail system that would be 220 miles per hour. It would take about 24 minutes to get to OKC from Tulsa. McGrath said that would you could go to Oklahoma City for dinner and be back home in time for the 10 o’clock news.

He believes the system will be built in the decades to come.

Among the advocates is former President Obama and there are many planners who say rail is a great idea if the economics work out.

Brian Bigbie is the Economic Planner for the Indian Nation Council of Governments. He cautioned that you can’t build it in hopes that the riders will come. Bigbie said, "You want to make sure that there are enough people that will utilize it, beyond just the novelty of it. That they would use it regularly almost on daily, or two or three times a week.” He added the numbers must be right because a high-speed line to Oklahoma City would cost around two billion dollars.

McGrath said there are a lot of ways to attack financial issues. He noted that in Texas rail lines are being built with a partnership between public and private interests. With the private companies are doing most of the construction.

He added in Oklahoma the state could provide the right of way, and let private companies create the system.

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