Rail Committee Sees Two Options for Stopping Sooner Sub Sale

Jan 23, 2014

Tulsa's Rail Advisory Committee discussed two tactics today to keep the Oklahoma Department of Transportation from selling the Sooner Sub rail line.

ODOT is accepting bids until Jan. 30 for the 97.5-mile line between Oklahoma City and Sapulpa, which many have hoped would become a passenger line linking Oklahoma City and Tulsa.

The Tulsa and Oklahoma City councils have teamed up to send Gov. Mary Fallin a joint resolution opposing the sale of the railroad. Tulsa City Council will draft the resolution within the next two weeks.

"If the public expresses their wishes to the governor's office, either individually or through our elected representatives — that we are against selling the line, that we are in favor of multiple round-trips per day passenger rail service — hopefully the governor will listen," said committee chair Rick Westcott.

Oklahoma City sent a representative to the meeting.

"The council support is currently there. I've been assured of that," said Jeff Bezdek, an appointee to Oklahoma City's area transit committee. "Whatever they draft in terms of supporting not selling this alignment, I'm fully confident we'll follow right up."

The rail committee members are also hopeful a recently filed bill will prevent the state from selling the Sooner Sub line.

House Bill 2897, authored by state Rep. Richard Morrissette (D-Oklahoma City), would make it harder for the state to sell rail assets. The entire legislature would have to approve a sale by joint resolution.

With the Sooner Sub bidding deadline next week, however, the bill must move quickly if it's going to factor into that sale.

"ODOT could act quickly after that, and the governor could possibly approve the sale quickly after that," Westcott said. "This new bill would have to go through the process and pass both the House and the Senate and ultimately be signed by the governor before it becomes law."

ODOT is asking at least $9.1 million for the line, which it bought in 1998 for that price.