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Officials say they're optimistic Kansas-Oklahoma rail route is on track for federal funding

Oklahoma Department of Transportation

Kansas and Oklahoma are eying an extension of the Heartland Flyer rail route that would connect Oklahoma City to Newton, Kansas. When they updated the public on the project this week, officials said they’re optimistic the project will be selected for competitive federal rail funding later this month.

The existing Heartland Flyer runs between Oklahoma City and Fort Worth, Texas. The proposed expansion would add stops in Edmond, Guthrie, Perry and Ponca City in Oklahoma. North of the Kansas border, the train would stop in Arkansas City, Wichita and Newton. 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. KDOT’s proposed schedule runs once a day in either direction.

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.”

Davis said on the current timeline, this rail could be operational sometime between 2028 and 2030. The project could be expedited if it’s selected as part of the Federal Rail Administration’s Corridor ID Program. Davis said he’s been told selectees will be announced later this month.

“We submitted our application in March and have had good conversations with FRA and Amtrak,” Davis said. “So we're hopeful that we will be included in that announcement in late November.”

You can learn more about the project and offer public comment on KDOT’s website.

Graycen Wheeler is a reporter covering water issues at KOSU.