Friday, March 12, 2010

Study outlines alternatives for Kansas rail passenger service

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Study outlines alternatives for Kansas rail passenger service | Railway Track & Structures

Four alternatives for state-sponsored passenger rail service between Kansas City, Oklahoma City and Fort Worth are detailed in a study released today by Amtrak and the Kansas Department of Transportation.  Start-up costs of the alternatives, which are in 2009 dollars and based on 100 percent on-time performance, range from $156 million to $479 million and the annual operating support range from $3.2 million to $8 million. Annual ridership estimates of the four alternatives range from 65,900 to 174,000.

Each of the options in the study, which was prepared for KDOT by Amtrak with BNSF input, restore passenger rail service to Wichita and five other cities in Kansas and Oklahoma that lost Amtrak service during federally-mandated cuts in 1979.

"I am pleased that we have completed this first step. With this study in hand, we can begin to have the kind of meaningful dialog that is necessary for Kansans to make a decision about how to proceed with passenger rail in our state," said Kansas Transportation Secretary Deb Miller.

"Growth in state-supported corridors is an important part of our future at Amtrak," said Michael Franke, Assistant Vice President, Policy & Development, noting Amtrak is the passenger rail operator of choice of 15 states. "We look forward to working with leaders of Kansas to provide Amtrak service as a mobility choice that is dependable, convenient, safe, economical and environmentally friendly.

The following are brief descriptions of the four alternatives. A full description of each is included in the study, which can be viewed - along with supporting materials - on the KDOT Web site at www.ksdot.org.

Alternative 1 - This nighttime service between Newton and Fort Worth would have an estimated annual ridership of 92,500. It would require $114.3 million in infrastructure improvements estimated by BNSF and $40 million estimated by Amtrak for additional locomotives and railcars, with annual state operating support of $3.2 million.

Alternative 2 - This nighttime service between Kansas City and Fort Worth would have an annual ridership of 118,200. It would require $274 million in infrastructure improvements estimated by BNSF and $40 million estimated by Amtrak for additional locomotives and railcars, with annual state operating support of $5.2 million.

Alternative 3 - This daytime service between Kansas City and Fort Worth would have an annual ridership of 174,000. It would require $413 million in infrastructure improvements estimated by BNSF and $63 million estimated by Amtrak for additional locomotives and railcars, with annual state operating support of $8 million.

Alternative 4 - This daytime service between Kansas City and Oklahoma City would have an annual ridership of 65,900. It would require $251 million in infrastructure improvements estimated by BNSF and $56 million estimated by Amtrak for additional locomotives and railcars and annual state support of $6.4 million.

Alternatives 1 and 2 studied extensions of the current Fort Worth-Oklahoma City Amtrak Heartland Flyer trains to Newton or Kansas City. The Heartland Flyer is jointly sponsored by the states of Oklahoma and Texas with Amtrak.

Not included in the study are the cost estimates of renovating or building stations and boarding platforms, which are assumed to be local costs.

The next of many steps required before rail service can be implemented is selection of one of the alternatives through a public process involving the Oklahoma, Texas and Missouri departments of transportation, legislators and public officials from the four states and passenger rail advocates. KDOT then must complete a Service Development Plan (of which Kansas and Oklahoma are sharing the cost), and a state rail plan. In addition:

• Funding must be secured for capital requirements and annual operating support.

• Detailed discussions and formal negotiations must take place between Amtrak, BNSF and the departments of transportation in Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas and Missouri.

• Railcars and locomotives must be procured and stations must be developed.

• Infrastructure improvements must be completed.

• Additional Amtrak personnel must be recruited and trained.

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