Wichita Council Member Supports Passenger Rail Study

By: Lily Wu - Email
By: Lily Wu - Email

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Monday, July 16, 2012

Wichita Council member, Pete Meitzner, hopes other leaders will support a study for passenger rail that is currently underway in Texas. Oklahoma has already joined the Texas study.

"If we can join the Texas study for a minimal cost versus trying to do a study on our own, as Kansas, then it just preserves the opportunity," said Meitzner.

Meitzner says there are cost savings to tag along with the Texas study but would not disclose the cost of the study. Texas has already paid for some of the early stages of the study.

The study is the preliminary step for consideration of rail services through an area. Currently, there are two proposed routes that go north of Oklahoma City. One route would include Wichita, and the other route would miss Wichita by going northeast through Tulsa and Joplin.

Organizations like the Regional Economic Area Partnership and Wichita Downtown Development Corporation are supporting the idea of a study.

"Regardless of the economic upswings and downswings, I just think that's something that we should look in to. Again, we need to be responsible about the cost," said Meitzner.

Residents in the region, like Newton, are also in support of a study.

"Very important for us to strengthen and augment transportation systems of all kinds, and rail, we believe, is a very key component of that," said Jim Schwarzenberger, executive director of the Newton Area Chamber of Commerce.

"It would be just wonderful for us to [use the train to Dallas] too. It's less stressful. We don't have to drive. We don't have to get on the road. Gas prices are ridiculous," said Vicki and Shawn Stobbe, business travelers from Newton.

Meitzner will present a report on the passenger rail service study to Sedgwick County commissioners at Wednesday's meeting.

If the study is completed, then it would give the region up to ten years to find funding to complete the project.

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