On Tuesday afternoon, the Senate Transportation Committee approved two bills by Sen. Kevin Matthews to bring high speed rail to Tulsa and eventually throughout the state. Senate Bill 1082 creates the “High Speed Transit Rail Expansion Commission” and Senate Bill 1379 directs the Department of Transportation to enter into agreements for light rail passenger service in Tulsa.
“These are very important progressive steps to explore bringing more tourism, commerce, and tax revenue to my district, the City of Tulsa, and ultimately, the State of Oklahoma,” said Matthews, D-Tulsa. “While we have been fighting without agreement on how to fund our core services of education, healthcare and public safety, we have to think about ways of growing our tax base. Tourism along with attracting more people and businesses to our cities and state seems to be an overlooked opportunity that other states have taken advantage of.”
Matthews noted that high speed rail is currently being developed in Texas, and could be coming to the borders of Oklahoma. A commission is needed to study the feasibility and major benefits of rapidly transporting workers and tourists to cities throughout the state.
“It only makes good business sense to see how we could capitalize on high speed rail that has the potential of bringing significant revenue to our state,” said Matthews. “High speed rail could transport people from Oklahoma City to Tulsa in less than thirty minutes. Not only would this be an exciting new way to travel for Oklahomans, but it could literally change the way that business is done in our state.”
During debate, he pointed to examples like Seattle, Washington and major airports where people experience the benefits of light rail transport and are moved from place to place with relative ease. Light rail is a fun way for passengers to move around a city and helps cut down on pollution, traffic jams and drivers’ stress about inattentive drivers and parking.
“I’m tired of Oklahoma being the last to think outside the box with bold and progressive ideas. Just like bringing the Thunder to Oklahoma City, we need more exciting things to bring people to Oklahoma and make them want to spend their money,” said Matthews. “We can’t wait for the future to come to us, we must create it!”
The bills will now move to the full Senate Appropriations Committee for further consideration.