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  1. Default Re: Oklahoma Passenger Rail Updates(non-HSR)

    Quote Originally Posted by Hutch View Post
    What this issue is about is the fact that Iowa Pacific, a private, out-of-state company, has unexpectedly announced that it plans to begin intercity passenger rail service between Sapulpa and Midwest City early in 2015. And that company has decided to initiate the service using connecting charter bus service into OKC and Tulsa instead of direct rail service into the downtown areas of both cities. That is a decision that was made internally and without consultation with city officials in OKC or Tulsa. In fact, OKC and Tulsa city officials were not even aware that the service was about to be initiated.
    Quote Originally Posted by Hutch View Post
    When ODOT sold the Sooner Subdivision rail line between Sapulpa and Midwest City to WATCO instead of BNSF earlier this year, it opened the door for Iowa Pacific to at some point in the future initiate trial daily intercity passenger rail service along the line. You will remember that in February of this year, Iowa Pacific partnered with WATCO (who was leasing the line from ODOT at the time) and offered 3 excursion trains along the line, which were highly successful. Those excursions also used charter buses to take passengers from the end of the line in Midwest City to various destinations in OKC..
    Hutch is more or less on the money on this, except for one thing: ODOT, at the very least, knew full well this was coming. When ODOT sold the Sooner Sub to WATCO's Stillwater Central RR, part of the Final Sale Agreement was that by 2019, WATCO would provide, or arrange for, a pilot program of regular passenger service between at least Del City and Sapulpa. This pilot program must offer at least two trains per day, 7 days a week, for a period of at least 6 months. If (and only if) this pilot program proves profitable, by 2024, WATCO must then initiate or arrange for continuous daily passenger service. WATCO is on the hook for $2.8 Million, payable to ODOT's Rail Programs Division, if the pilot program does not conform to the specifications above; if the pilot program is successful but WATCO does not implement passenger service before their deadline, then the rights to operate passenger trains over this line revert back to ODOT.

    In addition, WATCO is required to upgrade the line to at least Federal Railroad Administration Class 3 standards - which allows 60mph max speeds for passenger trains - by 2021, or else ownership of the entire line reverts back to ODOT. As a result, this line will certainly get improved... WATCO doesn't really have an option here!

    The full final sale agreement can be viewed here: http://www.okladot.state.ok.us/Soone...%282014%29.pdf. It's full of legalese, but for train nuts like myself, it's got some interesting reading.

  2. #52

    Default Re: Oklahoma Passenger Rail Updates(non-HSR)

    Quote Originally Posted by baralheia View Post
    Hutch is more or less on the money on this, except for one thing: ODOT, at the very least, knew full well this was coming. When ODOT sold the Sooner Sub to WATCO's Stillwater Central RR, part of the Final Sale Agreement was that by 2019, WATCO would provide, or arrange for, a pilot program of regular passenger service between at least Del City and Sapulpa. This pilot program must offer at least two trains per day, 7 days a week, for a period of at least 6 months. If (and only if) this pilot program proves profitable, by 2024, WATCO must then initiate or arrange for continuous daily passenger service. WATCO is on the hook for $2.8 Million, payable to ODOT's Rail Programs Division, if the pilot program does not conform to the specifications above; if the pilot program is successful but WATCO does not implement passenger service before their deadline, then the rights to operate passenger trains over this line revert back to ODOT.

    In addition, WATCO is required to upgrade the line to at least Federal Railroad Administration Class 3 standards - which allows 60mph max speeds for passenger trains - by 2021, or else ownership of the entire line reverts back to ODOT. As a result, this line will certainly get improved... WATCO doesn't really have an option here!

    The full final sale agreement can be viewed here: http://www.okladot.state.ok.us/Soone...%282014%29.pdf. It's full of legalese, but for train nuts like myself, it's got some interesting reading.
    Welcome to the forum baralheia. I appreciate your input. Please forgive my tin-foil hat (it's on, as I write this), but why did ODOT do this? Are they hoping Iowa Pacific / WATCO would fail? and then they (ODOT) would get a better rail with upgrades? Are they hoping it will succeed? and then appease Oklahomans who want more rail with this crumb? My starting position is that ODOT doesn't give a rat's patootie about (passenger) rail. What's your opinion?
    Hutch? any other input/opinion?

  3. Default Re: Oklahoma Passenger Rail Updates(non-HSR)

    Quote Originally Posted by Dubya61 View Post
    Welcome to the forum baralheia. I appreciate your input. Please forgive my tin-foil hat (it's on, as I write this), but why did ODOT do this? Are they hoping Iowa Pacific / WATCO would fail? and then they (ODOT) would get a better rail with upgrades? Are they hoping it will succeed? and then appease Oklahomans who want more rail with this crumb? My starting position is that ODOT doesn't give a rat's patootie about (passenger) rail. What's your opinion?
    Hutch? any other input/opinion?
    Thanks for the welcome! I can only hazard a guess, but I think it's not necessarily that ODOT wants nothing to do with rail; I think they're okay with supporting private rail investment, but they just don't want to be in the business of actually owning the rails, leasing the lines out, etc. I do know that through the Rail Programs Division, ODOT has spent a bunch of money on improvement projects for public safety, as well as state contributions for TIGER grants. They spend a ton on AMTRAK's Heartland Flyer service each year too. Since the Iowa Pacific operation is entirely private investment that requires no government subsidy, it costs ODOT practically nothing to let them have a go at operating passenger service - and they know the public wants it. It's a win-win for ODOT, really.

  4. Default Re: Oklahoma Passenger Rail Updates(non-HSR)

    It looks like the start of regular passenger service has been pushed back to May (at the earliest), according to this article in the Tulsa World:
    Matt Abbey, Eastern Flyer project manager, said the leadership of Watco Cos., which owns the track, and Iowa Pacific Holdings, which is providing the passenger rail service, recently decided to move back their opening.

    “We made the decision as a group,” Abbey said. “We wanted a more thoughtfully developed service.”

    In January, officials said they hoped to open the service in March. Abbey now says they are shooting for May or “early summer.”
    I just hope that it doesn't get delayed forever... We need this train to get rolling sooner, rather than later.

    On the Midwest City passenger depot, I drove by the proposed location about a week ago, and noticed that no work at all had been done yet. It looks like the building permit is still in review; probably being held up while the city works on rezoning that plot of land from R-1 to SPUD-806 to allow for this use. Interesting that the rezoning application specifies that a permanent structure to be constructed within 2 years or the rezoned area will revert back to R-1.

    Looking at the proposed site plan attached to the SPUD application, it's going to be super simple: 400' concrete platform next to the tracks (possibly covered), concrete sidewalk connecting platform to a 99-space gravel parking lot, a 12' x 44' temporary (Shipping container/Mobile Mini-type) depot building, and porta-potties. Nothing spectacular to begin with - but if service is established into downtown, to Santa Fe Station or nearby, this could be made into a permanent stop. There are a decent number of spots, but not enough to serve as a park-n-ride type facility (not that I expected that from a temporary building, but still) - so other interconnecting transportation options will be needed for users who will be riding the train.

    Click image for larger version. 

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  5. #55

    Default Re: Oklahoma Passenger Rail Updates(non-HSR)

    I for the life of me do NOT like that money is being spent on a subpar rail line. I mean the state needs to go big and do HSR or AT LEAST light-rail that can average 100MPH to Tulsa. I am not excited about this at all and can't believe money is being wasted on this.

    We spend 850 billion a year on war and give millions and millions on tax breaks. There is a way to fund light-rail between Tulsa and OKC without a substantial increase in taxes; though instead of connecting to Tulsa, a city that isn't that important or has much going on, I'd rather connect to Dallas, a city that is actually worth visiting and could significantly benefit us by being connected to.

  6. Default Re: Oklahoma Passenger Rail Updates(non-HSR)

    PluPan, remember that - despite being nudged into action by ODOT - all of the money spent on this project is private investment. If Iowa Pacific thinks they can make money providing daily passenger service to Tulsa, while accepting NO government subsidies, then I am absolutely all for it. This establishes demand and shows that the service is viable so that when that day comes, voters and legislators are more willing to say yes to a HSR corridor. This is a win-win for everyone: Get service initiated and get the ball rolling, at no expense to taxpayers, while drumming up demand and support for rail-based transportation options including HSR.

    Also keep in mind that establishing this link allows Tulsans to come right into the CBD/Bricktown area (admittedly, the last leg is via bus for the time being), and ultimately they can connect with the Heartland Flyer to get to Dallas. If the Eastern Flyer is as successful as is hoped, then schedules could be coordinated for a full TUL-OKC-FTW rail trip not too far off in the future.

    It may not be "HSR RIGHT NOW" but it is a necessary step, in my view, to get to the transportation options we want.

  7. #57

    Default Re: Oklahoma Passenger Rail Updates(non-HSR)

    Good point, I didn't realize this was completely private.

  8. Default Re: Oklahoma Passenger Rail Updates(non-HSR)

    surely hope this is a success and they do extend into Downtown OKC (and it surely will be a huge success if/when it does). Hope they plan to have several departures throughout the day between the cities - this will really connect the state's two biggest cities and might even allow for some sort of commute and Amtrak option (which maybe Iowa Pacific could also run). ....

    Hopefully they can make the MWC location permanent as well for those going to E OK county area as it's nice to have more than one stop in the OKC area so downtown isn't totally congested (well, I like the congested Downtown but I'm only trying to think of those going to MWC/Tinker/E OK county as a convenience since the train goes that way).
    Oklahoma City, the RENAISSANCE CITY!

  9. Default Re: Oklahoma Passenger Rail Updates(non-HSR)

    The current plan is for the Eastern Flyer to have something like 3 or 4 round trips a day, if I remember correctly. There's only one trainset that will shuttle back and forth between OKC and Tulsa, though, so using the train for commuting might be limited depending on which direction you're going.

    I too hope the MWC station becomes permanent, for convenience's sake.

  10. #60

    Default Re: Oklahoma Passenger Rail Updates(non-HSR)

    Anyone have any new info on this? They keep throwing out vague target opening dates, then delaying them, and their FB page is a constant feed of saying "we don't know anything yet". Definitely makes it seem like the whole thing might not actually happen to the casual observer. I hope they can get it open within the next couple of months or I may lose all hope.

  11. #61

    Default Re: Oklahoma Passenger Rail Updates(non-HSR)

    Quote Originally Posted by shavethewhales View Post
    Anyone have any new info on this? They keep throwing out vague target opening dates, then delaying them, and their FB page is a constant feed of saying "we don't know anything yet". Definitely makes it seem like the whole thing might not actually happen to the casual observer. I hope they can get it open within the next couple of months or I may lose all hope.
    If I were making the decision, I would make sure it was running during as much of the Thunder season as possible to try to capitalize on Tulsans who may want to take the train down for a game similar to the OU/TX Heartland Flyer. But they really need to get better at the PR and marketing game.

  12. Default Re: Oklahoma Passenger Rail Updates(non-HSR)

    Although passenger service is mandated by the sale agreement between ODOT and WATCO/Stillwater Central, they technically still have 4 years before they hit the penalty deadline. That said, I was under the impression that the passenger operator - Iowa Pacific - was very eager to get this thing going. Maybe they're waiting on WATCO to complete track improvements? I'll ask around in the railfan groups and see what (if anything) I can come up with.

    I'm super ready for this thing to get going... I got my first taste of passenger/commuter rail while visiting family in Chicago last week; I rode the Metra from Wheeling to Chicago Union Station and back. I know that the Eastern Flyer won't be quite the same (long-distance passenger service and not commuter rail) but it still excites me nonetheless!

  13. #63

    Default Re: Oklahoma Passenger Rail Updates(non-HSR)

    I had my first experience with commuter rail in Toronto and it got me super excited for this as well. Wish it would hurry up.

  14. Default Re: Oklahoma Passenger Rail Updates(non-HSR)

    One other thought as to the delay of the start of service: They may also be waiting for the temporary Midwest City depot to be constructed first. I drove by that plot off of Sooner today, and no work has been done out there at all yet. Looking at city documents, it looks like the rezoning application was approved, but the building permit (BLDC-2014-12605) shows it's still in review, with $111 in fees outstanding.

    They had such interest in the demonstration trains... they really need to get this service rolling soon before people forget about it...

  15. #65

    Default Re: Oklahoma Passenger Rail Updates(non-HSR)

    Now they are saying closer to Fall...

    I don't know why they got everyone's hopes up for spring if they are waiting for the stations to be complete. Should have just said early 2016 from the beginning. I stop paying attention when the carrot keeps getting pulled away.

  16. #66

    Default Re: Oklahoma Passenger Rail Updates(non-HSR)

    Until some trackwork is repaired Oklahoma City rail service is restricted to Purcell and back. That is, if the Flyer is currently parked in OKC. Sure would like to see service through Tulsa, Springfield and on into St. Louis. What a beautiful ride that was back in the day.

  17. #67

    Default Re: Oklahoma Passenger Rail Updates(non-HSR)

    From the Tulsa World : Passenger rail not coming to Tulsa as soon as hoped

    Passenger rail not coming to Tulsa as soon as hoped - Tulsa World: Homepagelatest

  18. #68

    Default Re: Oklahoma Passenger Rail Updates(non-HSR)

    Quote Originally Posted by Tritone View Post
    Until some trackwork is repaired Oklahoma City rail service is restricted to Purcell and back. That is, if the Flyer is currently parked in OKC. Sure would like to see service through Tulsa, Springfield and on into St. Louis. What a beautiful ride that was back in the day.
    Agree, the ride through the Ozarks would be pretty scenic much like the ride through the Arbuckles but much longer. I'm hoping that happens someday, especially if you could then take HSR from St Louis to Chicago.

    As far as OKC-Tulsa, it should be downtown to downtown when they start it even if it means a delay.

  19. Default Re: Oklahoma Passenger Rail Updates(non-HSR)

    I agree BG918. We won't get a lot of shots at this so get it right the first time, even if it means waiting.

  20. Default Re: Oklahoma Passenger Rail Updates(non-HSR)

    Reading into Ed Ellis' responses in that article, it seems clear to me that the delay is most likely due to two things: First, Iowa Pacific's interpretation of "doing this right the first time" is to wait for Oklahoma City and Tulsa to work on their respective stations. Second, agreements need to be made with Union Pacific and BNSF in Oklahoma City, and BNSF in Tulsa, to get the train from downtown to downtown. The second item will be far easier and faster than the first; renovations to the Santa Fe terminal building in OKC will need to be completed, as well as trackwork and additional platforms on top of the rail viaduct - not to mention the rehabilitation of the UP track separating Bricktown from Deep Deuce, and the construction of the southern leg of the wye to get the train to the platforms. I have no idea what Tulsa is planning, but as I understand it, the city doesn't own Tulsa Union Station anymore, so they would have to construct all new facilities.

    If I am interpreting this correctly, we may not see Eastern Flyer service begin for at least a few years - much to my dismay. I'm a proponent of getting the service going now, and then growing into the OKC and Tulsa stops as they are ready, because Oklahomans are clearly hungry for this option right now. Iowa Pacific and WATCO have about 3 years until their contractual obligations are breached, though, so I doubt they are in any real hurry right now.

  21. Default Re: Oklahoma Passenger Rail Updates(non-HSR)

    Iowa Pacific just started service between Indianapolis and Chicago with plans to quickly ramp up to 12 trains a day, plus start service to Ft. Wayne.

  22. #72

    Default Re: Oklahoma Passenger Rail Updates(non-HSR)

    Quote Originally Posted by baralheia View Post
    I have no idea what Tulsa is planning, but as I understand it, the city doesn't own Tulsa Union Station anymore, so they would have to construct all new facilities.
    Union Depot is owned by the Tulsa County Industrial Authority and is leased to the Jazz Hall of Fame, which is constantly cash strapped and probably would love someone to sub-lease part of the building from them. If access to the rail lines can be negotiated. It's a good solution, Union Depot is badly underused by The Jazz Hall of Fame and it's a great deco building.


  23. #73

    Default Re: Oklahoma Passenger Rail Updates(non-HSR)

    Quote Originally Posted by Swake View Post
    Union Depot is owned by the Tulsa County Industrial Authority and is leased to the Jazz Hall of Fame, which is constantly cash strapped and probably would love someone to sub-lease part of the building from them. If access to the rail lines can be negotiated. It's a good solution, Union Depot is badly underused by The Jazz Hall of Fame and it's a great deco building.

    That would be great, any idea what the condition of the old platform is? It can not really be seen by google in any detail, though even if it is in very good shape, it looks like the track near it might need some work to get passengers right next to the platform.

  24. #74

    Default Re: Oklahoma Passenger Rail Updates(non-HSR)

    Quote Originally Posted by Snowman View Post
    That would be great, any idea what the condition of the old platform is? It can not really be seen by google in any detail, though even if it is in very good shape, it looks like the track near it might need some work to get passengers right next to the platform.
    No idea what the platform is like, most of it is gone. You can see what the platforms used to be like in this old postcard, most of it was just cut away:

  25. #75

    Default Re: Oklahoma Passenger Rail Updates(non-HSR)

    Looks similar in size and layout to Baltimore Penn Station.

    I'm glad Iowa Pacific, WATCO, and the cities of TUlsa and OKC are collaborating on making the service a real transportation option and not just an excursion ride. I think the MWC to Sapulpa with shuttle buses scheme likely would have doomed this to a six month experiment predestined for failure. The last thing anyone needs to give ODOT or the legislature is an opportunity to say "I told you so" when it comes to passenger rail.

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