NORMAN — The Amtrak Heartland flyer train began service from Oklahoma City to Fort Worth on Flag Day, 1999. Its inaugural run south marked the end of a 20-year absence of passenger rail between Oklahoma and Texas.
At the time the train pulled from the station, rail supporters said it was only a matter of time before trains carried passengers north to Kansas.
It’s been nearly 14 years and we are no closer to that goal today than we were in 1999. Studies have suggested the need to close the 185-mile service gap between Oklahoma City and Wichita, but getting states together to agree on funding sources has proven to be a slow process.
This past week, in honor of National Train Day, some mayors in Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma have signed a letter of support for daily rail service from Oklahoma City to Wichita. Such service would strengthen the I-35 corridor, which runs from San Antonio to Kansas City.
Officials said the Kansas Department of Transportation will contribute $3 million for Wichita to pursue federal funding for the project, contingent on Oklahoma providing $2.3 million.
The Heartland Flyer’s success could be helped with more daily runs. Unless your travel schedule is flexible, the once-daily morning run south and back in the evening is rather confining.
It has also been suggested the trains allow recreational cyclists to bring their bicycles on board without putting them in boxes. That was allowed until a few years ago.