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Projected Cost to Extend Passenger Rail

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It may seem simple. The tracks are in place all the way from Chicago to Houston through Kansas City, Wichita, Oklahoma City and Fort Worth. Freight trains whizz by on the BNSF Railway mainline today. However, Class-1 railroads require capital infrastructure improvements for passenger speeds.

The Heartland Flyer currently runs at 79-mph between Oklahoma City and Fort Worth. This speed will not be possible north of Oklahoma City to Newton, Kansas without some signaling system changes and adjustments to curves (superelevation).

Also capacity has been a concern on the rail line. Investment plans were studied in 2010 showing a $126 million capital requirement to simply run an additional two daily trains between Oklahoma City and a connection point with the Chicago-Kansas City-Los Angeles Southwest Chief. A new service between Kansas City and Fort Worth was slated at an outrageous $479 million.

We have been told by public officials these numbers were inflated. We hope those holding public office will be able to negotiate these costs down to reasonable levels. Understand in 1999, the BNSF Railway required just $2.6 million to begin service.