Rep. Morrissette cheers enactment of passenger rail study

Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin has signed House Bill 1686, the Eastern Flyer Passenger Rail Initiative. Cheering her decision this week was state Rep. Richard Morrissette, a south Oklahoma City Democrat.

In a press release from Morrissette, the measure was described as an interim study proposal that evolved “into a vehicle to advance our mutual understanding of Transportation P3 (Public-Private Partnership) with the goal of extending passenger rail to Tulsa.”

Morrissette, in comments sent to CapitolBeatOK, said, “There was an extraordinarily effective citizens lobby organized to support this measure. And on that subject, besides acknowledgments to the Senate author, Sen. Brian Crain [a Tulsa Republican] and Tulsa Councilman Rick Westcott, Evan Stair, Executive Director of Passenger Rail Oklahoma, provided his expertise and honorable conduct throughout the process keeping legislators and advocates focused and moving forward toward a positive outcome.”

He continued, “This has been a difficult session. … H.B. 1686 provides for the formation of a task force to look at cost effective ways to merge available resources with those to be found in the private sector, bringing us ever closer to passenger service from Ft. Worth to Tulsa. We look forward to this historic effort.”

The Heartland Flyer carries passengers from Ft. Worth to Oklahoma City. According to the Texas Transportation Institute, towns along the route benefit with $18 million annual profit in lodging, meals, shopping and entertainment. His analysis contended, “New projects either now in development or on the drawing board for future development could benefit from exposure to the proposed Tulsa route. Chandler, Bristow and Sapulpa are directly in line to receive rail traffic.”

Rep. Morrissette concluded, “The next step will involve forming a task force to study options and opportunities and we will begin that work – unofficially- right away, and then in 90 days, form the working group. I thank Governor Fallin for listening to the citizens.”