Government & Politics

Supporters of Amtrak service between KC and Oklahoma hope others will get on board

The Kansas City Star

It’s been almost four decades since passenger trains have run from Oklahoma City to Kansas City. Some people want to change that, and they hope Friday was a start.

A train run by Amtrak on BNSF Railway tracks was scheduled to pull into Union Station on Friday evening, according to a news release from Texas Rail Advocates. The train stopped to meet with local officials along the way.

“I love trains and I’d like to take one to Oklahoma City,” said Kansas City Mayor Pro Tem Scott Wagner, a supporter of the train route’s return.

The state of Kansas would have to chip in to make regular passenger service a reality, said Mark Corriston, board member of the Northern Flyer Alliance, a nonprofit advocating for the plan. Oklahoma and Texas help fund the route running from Fort Worth to Oklahoma City, Corriston said.

Nationwide, about 6 percent of Amtrak’s costs are covered by public dollars, according to Amtrak. That is down from 33 percent in the late 1970s, Corriston said.

If the plan were to go ahead, riders would take a train to Newton, Kan., before heading south through Wichita to Oklahoma. Passengers could travel from there to Texas. Without the connecting service, passengers must take a bus south from Newton.

Prices for the current service vary dramatically based on booking date, travel date and seat type.

Passengers can currently take trains directly from Kansas City to Chicago, Los Angeles and St. Louis, as well as intermediate destinations.

The last time passenger trains ran north from Oklahoma City to Kansas City was 1979. Amtrak closed the route and two others after congressional budget cuts and a legal fight, according to accounts from The Associated Press. When the routes closed, operating costs were more than $150,000 a day.