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Oklahoma will compete for $2 billion in high-speed rail funds

(The following story by Jim Myers appeared on the Tulsa World website on August 24, 2009.)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — After doing what one official called a “gut check,” a key Oklahoma agency announced Monday that the state will complete its formal application in October for roughly $2 billion in high-speed rail funds.

Success would return passenger rail service to Tulsa.

David Streb, director of engineering at the Oklahoma Department of Transportation, said the grant program of President Barack Obama’s administration remains highly competitive.

But he said the track of funding ODOT has chosen will allow the state to take advantage of certain factors not shared by other states. Those include being on one of the original 10 high-speed rail corridors and the only one located in the middle of the country, which would connect major cities in the region.

“I think that registered with the Federal Railroad Administration,” Streb said.

He said the “gut check” was performed with the federal agency after the state submitted its preliminary application in July.

Streb said ODOT came away confident that it was on the right track with all of the proposed improvements listed in its preapplication to be eligible for funding.

If you look across the country, he said, that will not be the case in other states.

ODOT’s plan would extend service from Tulsa to Oklahoma City and on to the Texas state line and would provide service with top speeds between the state’s two major cities of more than 150 mph.

The deadline for ODOT’s application is Oct. 2. Work could begin as early as 2010 and is expected to take at least six years to complete.

Oklahoma’s preliminary application in July came in response to the Obama administration’s push for high-speed train service.

The administration has identified $13 billion to get that process started, with $8 billion coming from the stimulus package and $5 billion provided over five years.

In July, the administration said it had received 278 preapplications for grant funding totaling $102 billion. For the corridor that includes Oklahoma, 44 preapplications were received covering funding requests totaling $16 billion.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

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