Monday, October 29, 2012
The Kansas Legislative Interim Committee on Transportation recommended going forward with a study for the expansion of the Northern Flyer today.
"We still want to connect Texas and Oklahoma up through us and we don't want it going to Tulsa and bypassing our state," said Pete Meitzner, Wichita city council member.
Meitzner along with council member, James Clendenin, went to Topeka to present a business case for passenger rail service through Wichita.
"What we've tried to take is a real honest approach. We've found that by riding it, you have productive hours versus non-productive hours if you had to drive the same length," he said.
Others who supported passenger rail said it's the idea of connecting commerce in the region.
"How do we we really create strong regions? Again, rail is a big part of that, not only through passenger rail but also freight. That's the other thing you begin to think about is, 'How do we connect commerce?'" said Jeff Fluhr, president of the Wichita Downtown Development
Meitzner said the “service gap” between Oklahoma City and Wichita is a crucial deficiency in a transportation system that is anchored by Interstate 35. More than 30 Kansas local governments and community organizations have expressed formal support for expanded passenger rail through resolutions or letters of support.
"From San Antonio, all the way up through Wichita, into Kansas City, it's a very important development area for business and for commerce," said Meitzner.
Meitzner asked the committee to support the completion of a National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) study by KDOT. Meitzner said the five million dollar study would ensure that Kansas is positioned for any future expansion of passenger rail service.
"We'll keep working on that and hopefully get that funded so that we'll be ready to go when that opportunity gets presented to us," Fluhr.
The committee recommended going forward with the NEPA study and support efforts to maintain the Southwest Chief.