Kansans optimistic on passenger rail to Oklahoma, Texas

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You can get on a train in Newton and head to Los Angeles or Chicago, but Wichita has not had Amtrak trains stopping in town since the 1970s – but that could soon change.

“It’s the Heartland Flyer, the route that would go from Newton to parts south in Oklahoma and into Texas,” Newton City Commissioner Barth Hague said.

Hague went to Topeka last week to hear about the possibility of Amtrak expanding.

“Amtrak officials were very clear to the Senate Ways and Means committee that there is promise for the Heartland Flyer going forward,” Hague said.

Hauge says before the Heartland Flyer starts running from Newton to Wichita into Oklahoma and Texas, there are issues that have to be resolved. First, the state has to fix some issues with the Southwest Chief route that currently stops in Newton. Another issue is seeing what states like Kansas and Oklahoma would do in the way of helping start and sustain service.

Hague also says Burlington Northern needs to do a feasability study on the rail lines but adds Amtrak could run South out of Newton into Texas without a major rail upgrades right away.

“What Amtrak made clear to the Ways and Means committee is that without a huge investment they would be able to run trains back and forth to Oklahoma City and Newton at freight speeds,” Hague said. “Which is essentially 60 miles an hour .”

Some residents in Wichita say they would use Amtrak if they don’t have to drive to other cities to get on board.

“As far as going to the DFW (Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas) area, I’m a big fan,” Colby Munn said. “But using something that’s cheap and cost-efficient? I would absolutely be willing to use Amtrak. Absolutely.”

Others aren’t as sure.

“I, personally, would be open to it, but my family is less inclined to spend that time on a train,” Todd McKee said.

Right now, Amtrak’s Heartland Flyer passenger train runs only from Oklahoma City to Fort Worth.

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