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Tulsa-Oklahoma City high-speed rail link in plan

(The Associated Press circulated the following on September 13, 2009.)

TULSA, Okla. — Oklahoma transportation officials will hold public hearings next week in its plan to run a high-speed rail line between Oklahoma City and Tulsa that could eventually link to Chicago and San Antonio.

Under the federal economic stimulus plan, $8 billion in high-speed rail funding is available. The Oklahoma Department of Transportation plans to apply for $2 billion in funding to build a Tulsa-Oklahoma City high-speed line. Its application is due Oct. 2.

Transportation officials have scheduled public hearings for Monday in Oklahoma City and Tuesday in Tulsa to get residents' opinions on the plan, which would put the rail line north of the Turner Turnpike.

The hearings help officials show "that as part of the application process, the public was involved, the public was behind us," department spokeswoman Kenna Mitchell told the Tulsa World.

Mitchell said officials with agency's rail division and environmental evaluation division will join an environmental consultant to help lead Tuesday's meeting.

A pre-application shows the proposal would also improve the current Heartland Flyer line between Oklahoma City and Texas and develop the new 150 mph link to Tulsa.

"This is our vision for high-speed rail," Mitchell said. "This is what we could do if we were to receive part of this funding."

Mitchell said the Oklahoma line would be unique because it would link the country's south-central rail corridor and the Chicago hub network via St. Louis.

"We could be a very viable link between regions," Mitchell said.

Residents have until Sept. 25 to submit comments on the plan. The department will include the comments with the plan's final application.

Those interested in commenting on the project should e-mail Johnson Bridgwater with department's Rail Program Division at jbridgwater(at)odot.org. People can also send letters to: ODOT Rail Division; 200 N.E. 21st St., Room 3-D6; Oklahoma City, OK 73105.

Monday, September 14, 2009

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