Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Track to the Future: Environmental Study Next Step for Rail Corridor between Tulsa and OKC

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Track to the Future: Environmental Study Next Step for Rail Corridor between Tulsa and OKC

Article excerpt

High-speed passenger rail service between Tulsa and Oklahoma City is on track with the construction of the double-decker bridge on Interstate 244 over the Arkansas River.

Next for the Oklahoma Department of Transportation is a $3 million environmental study for the Tulsa-to-Oklahoma City corridor, said ODOT Director of Engineering David Streb.

"We anticipate being awarded the money for the environmental study," Streb said. "All we are waiting for is dotting of the i's and crossing the t's."

The study looks at a lot more than the environment, he said.

"I like to call it an environmental disclosure statement," Streb said. "The study looks at how property will be affected, how many homes will have to be relocated, how many creek and river crossings there are, how it will affect water quality, how close the line comes to a cemetery."

Once complete, there is no deadline or mandate that rail service be attached to the bridge, said Kenna Mitchell, ODOT spokeswoman.

"We are taking steps now to do an environmental impact statement and a service development plan for a route between Tulsa and Oklahoma City," Mitchell said. "That way, we will be ahead of the curve if any federal money becomes available in the future for passenger rail."

The cost to replace the 44-year-old bridge over the Arkansas River is $78 million. The double-decker bridge will incorporate highway lanes on the top side and two dedicated future rail lines and an area for bicycle and pedestrian traffic underneath.

The push for rail service is coming from the Obama administration, Streb said.

"The current administration has made a lot of money for high- speed rail available at the federal level, which means the state will not have to pay for the service on its own," he said.

In April, Gov. Mary Fallin signed House Bill 1686, the Eastern Flyer Passenger Rail Initiative. The measure, which began as an interim study, emerged as a means to extend passenger rail service to Tulsa. …

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