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Proposed Amtrak route between Oklahoma City and central Kansas selected for federal funding

An Amtrak passenger train moving along a track.
Oklahoma Department of Transportation

All aboard the gravy train. A proposed Amtrak route connecting Oklahoma City to central Kansas by train has been selected to receive federal funding.

This is the Federal Rail Administration’s first round of funding for the Corridor Identification and Development program. It gives Oklahoma and Kansas $500,000 to plan an expansion of the Heartland Flyer Amtrak route.

The existing service only makes one roundtrip between OKC and Fort Worth, Texas, each day. The proposed expansion would bump that up to three trips per day.

It would also extend the route farther north. The new segment would have six stops between Oklahoma City and Newton, Kansas. At the northern end of the line, passengers could transfer to the existing Southwest Chief, which runs between Los Angeles and Chicago.

After this extension, it would take around 4 hours to travel between Newton and Oklahoma City, and almost 10 hours to travel the full length of the Heartland Flyer between Newton and Fort Worth, Texas. North of OKC, the train would only run once in either direction each day.

The timing could pose a problem for some travelers, especially those in Kansas. The southbound train would depart from Newton at 4:20 in the morning. The northbound train wouldn’t make it back to Newton until 1:22 AM. Several public commenters at the meeting expressed interest in a second frequency to the schedule.

“This [schedule] is not final by any means,” said Cory Davis with the Kansas Department of Transportation. “But it's what we were using for the operational analysis, ridership analysis and financial analysis.”

The train could be operational in about six years, Davis said at a public meeting about the proposed extension last month, although this new funding may expedite that.

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Graycen Wheeler is a reporter covering water issues at KOSU as a corps member with Report for America.
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