Oklahoma's bid to bring passenger rail service back to the state received another shot in the arm today when Governor Keating signed SB 383 into law. The legislation by Senator Dave Herbert would clear the way for Oklahoma to form an alliance with other states like Kansas and Texas, thus strengthening the region's chance of landing an Amtrak line.
"If we pool our resources with states like Kansas and Texas, it gives us a much better chance of landing passenger rail service in Oklahoma. This legislation provides us with a mechanism to do just that. It's a significant step forward in our bid to bring Amtrak back to Oklahoma," said Senator Herbert.
"I support any initiative that will make Oklahoma a more attractive place in which to live and do business. Passenger rail service would be just one more arrow in our economic development quiver," said Governor Keating.
SB 383, known as the "Interstate Midwest Regional Rail Compact," will establish an Oklahoma commission charged with seeking and forging alliances with other states interested in Amtrak service. Perhaps most importantly, the compact status will allow Oklahoma and any other participating states to leverage federal funding for related passenger rail costs.
"We're trying to tap every source of potential funding we can. A pot of federal money is sitting out there, holding a lot of the cash that was paid by Oklahoma taxpayers. It just makes sense that we try to put Oklahomans' money to use in Oklahoma, instead of letting some other states have it," said Senator Herbert.
The Midwest City legislator has been working with officials in Kansas and Texas on an Amtrak alliance. Lawmakers in Kansas are in the process of trying to pass legislation similar to SB 383 which would allow them to join Oklahoma in a passenger rail compact. Texas has also expressed an interest.
"If we can get Kansas and Texas to join us in the compact, we'll have a much better chance of getting the federal money we need. We'll have three influential Congressional delegations all on one team, working to link us up with the nation¹s passenger rail network. It will give Oklahoma a pretty strong advantage," 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, Tulsa, Oklahoma City and the Dallas-Forth Worth area.
"This is a win-win deal for all three states, but especially for Oklahoma. It puts us in position to be a major player in the competition for the federal money it will take to make passenger rail service a reality," said Senator Herbert.