WICHITA, Kan. — Supporters of expanded passenger rail service through Wichita have joined forces with officials in Missouri and Oklahoma.
A letter of support signed by the mayors of Wichita, Oklahoma City and Kansas City, Mo., was released Friday on the eve of National Train Day, which was marked on Saturday.
Rail supporters want to close the 185-mile service gap between Oklahoma City and Wichita. They contend creating daily passenger rail service between the two cities would strengthen the existing regional network throughout the Interstate 35 corridor that stretches from San Antonio to Kansas City, Mo.
"We are convinced that passenger rail will be a key component in the economic future of our communities and not simply a means of transporting a person from one location to another," the mayors wrote in their letter. "We also believe that an enhanced passenger rail system will result in greater volume for rail traffic, adding jobs and building capacity into our transportation infrastructure."
Wichita Vice Mayor Pete Meitzner said in a news release that the Kansas Department of Transportation will contribute $3 million for the city to pursue federal funding for the project, contingent on Oklahoma providing $2.3 million. Although no formal agreement is in place, city leaders in Wichita and Oklahoma City have had "preliminary discussions" indicating support for the move.
"A regional perspective to economic development is absolutely essential if we are going to compete with the other megapolitan areas around the country," Meitzner said. "Transportation infrastructure is one of the key foundations for economic growth, and passenger rail is a vital ingredient in a comprehensive strategy to grow and sustain our economy."
It is estimated to cost $90 million for the expanded rail service, according to a KDOT study. The grant application would be based on those estimates.