OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The Oklahoma Department of Transportation on Monday completed the $75 million sale of nearly 100 miles of railroad track between Sapulpa and Midwest City to Stillwater Central Railroad LLC, which plans to introduce passenger rail service connecting the Tulsa suburb to the Oklahoma City suburb.
ODOT Director Mike Patterson and Ed McKechnie, chief commercial officer for Pittsburg, Kansas-based Watco Companies, the parent company of Stillwater Central Railroad, signed the documents completing the sale of the 97.5 mile-stretch of rail, known as the Sooner Sub.
McKechnie said the company is working with Iowa Pacific, which operates passenger train services in the United States and other countries, to begin a trial run for passenger service sometime during the first half of 2015.
He said the timeline for starting the service and questions about the price of tickets, how many stops will be made along the route and the length of time it takes to make the trip are still being studied, with answers expected by early October.
McKechnie said safety issues must be addressed and the track improved to allow trains to travel at a faster speed.
The rail is rated Class 2, which allows speeds of up to 25 mph for freight and up to 30 mph for passenger trains. An upgrade to Class 3 would allow speeds of up to 40 mph for freight and 60 mph for passenger trains, according to the Federal Railroad Administration.
"Safety is the most important thing that you do in this so as you go from moving a carload of grain to moving a carload of people you want to make sure that everything is as it should be," McKechnie said.
The ultimate goal is to connect downtown Tulsa to downtown Oklahoma City by rail, officials have said. There are currently three rail trips per day from Sapulpa into Tulsa, while Oklahoma City officials would have to negotiate with Union Pacific to secure services, according to Patterson.
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