Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Railroad Offers State 100 Miles of Track

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Railroad Offers State 100 Miles of Track

Article excerpt

The State of Oklahoma has received an offer it almost can't refuse -- a link to what could become a state-owned rail passenger service.

The Burlington Northern-Santa Fe Railroad of Fort Worth has offered to sell the state about 100 miles of track for $6.5 million. Included is trackage from Oklahoma City to Sapulpa and a spur to Stillwater off the Perry-Tulsa line.

Oklahoma Department of Transportation officials are looking at the contract to ensure "it's everything as advertised," Transportation Secretary Neal McCaleb said Tuesday. "We are plowing through the 35 pages of contract right now," he said. It's not known when the sale will be completed. It could be within 30 days, McCaleb said. "The ball is in our court. We could still find some `I's' to dot and some `T's' to cross, but we still could find something that's not the way we expect. But we'll get it done as soon as possible." Although State Sen. Dave Herbert, D-Midwest City, proposed the purchase in the spring as the first step in developing a state- owned passenger rail service, that may not be the case, McCaleb said. "We would have to spend $16 million just to bring that line up to conditions where we could operate on it at 40 mph," he said. "It could still be used for an excursion train, but I don't think that it could become a viable commuter line without a lot of work." Instead, the trackage will join the other state-owned rail lines leased out for short-haul operations. "One of the things that we want to do is preserve the corridor to ensure that we have a continuation of freight rail service in Oklahoma," McCaleb said. State and railroad officials were negotiating the sale before Herbert made his April pitch for the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority to become the operator of a state-owned and operated passenger line. Herbert dismisses the high up-front cost of restoring rail passenger service to Oklahoma, either through Amtrak or as a state- owned service. "We have a surplus of money this year (above projections) and we're predicting another surplus next year," he said. "We possibly could use some of that money to bring the track up to the standards required. …

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