Company Bidding for Sooner Sub Will Consider Passenger Service

Feb 18, 2014

The state department of transportation has narrowed down bids for the Sooner Sub rail line to two companies, and at least one will consider allowing passenger rail service.

ODOT has selected BNSF Railway and Stillwater Central Railroad/Watco Companies for further negotiations on the 97.5-mile line. Jeff Van Schaick with Watco attended Tulsa's rail advisory committee meeting on Tuesday.

"It's important that the people who want to operate passenger trains on the line that we want to operate have a voice that speaks on behalf of the railroad and gives them the facts they need to proceed," Van Schaick said.

The company is talking to Iowa Pacific about passenger service. Iowa Pacific wants to run up to eight trains a day during the week and five a day on weekends. 

The rail advisory committee says selling the Sooner Sub would make passenger service more expensive. A fact sheet from the committee says the Heartland Flyer had to lease private lines for $3.95 million in 2009, while the Sooner Sub currently generates revenue for the state.

Committee Vice Chair Jeff Kos said enough interest is there to start passenger service now.

"My hope is that we can choose to do it sooner rather than later, because it's going to happen," Kos said. "And it's just going to be more expensive and more time-consuming if we don't look at the actual facts."

A decision on selling the line should be made by May. A deal would be finalized around July.