July 17, 2013

Perryman train study down, not out

Adam Troxtell
The Express-Star


The request by State Rep. David Perryman to study the feasibility of a commuter train connecting cities in Oklahoma has been shot down, but the representative is still optimistic it will be taken up in the future.

The study, which would explore the possibility of a train connecting Lawton to Oklahoma City and later to Tulsa, was not approved for committee in the House of Representatives at the first hurdle. It would look into the potential cost, ridership and other factors to placing the commuter train along the I-44 corridor.

"However, because of widespread, bi-partisan support for the proposal and the cooperation of other Representatives," Perryman said, "I anticipate being able to present most if not all of the issues to the Transportation Committee anyway."

 A bill passed in 2012, HB2469, is awaiting review by the Transportation Committee before it can bring in federal grants and loans to help fund regional transportation infrastructure in the state, Perryman said. Once that occurs, he believes he will be able to present the study to bring his idea a step closer to reality.

"At the same time that the Transportation Committee looks into that issue, I anticipate that Representative [Richard] Morrissette (D-OKC) and Representative [Charlie] Joyner (R-OKC) who is chairman of the Transportation Committee will allow me to springboard from their study and include the issues that I am promoting," Perryman said.

"We have statutes for RTA (regional transportation authority) and small towns and big cities can organize and develop their own improvement projects. But HB 2469, when activated, will allow funding to be a reality."

The reason behind pushing for commuter trains has environmental, infrastructural and social benefits, Perryman said.

"I have previously illustrated the quality of life benefits as well as the potential environmental benefits of passenger rail," he said. "I have shown how the traffic that is removed from highways would substantially reduce wear and tear on our highways. Studies have also shown that Oklahoma’s disabled citizens will benefit by providing transportation to a group of our citizens who are currently locked out of the job market because they do not have transportation to and from work."

The study also includes the development of hubs along the commuter train line that would connect more rural towns and regions to stations in larger cities. Beyond this, Perryman said he is hopeful of expanding outside of Oklahoma to reach the Northwest Texas area and up into Missouri and Kansas.

"I am encouraged by the cooperation of the House Transportation Committee and the many calls and eMails of support that I have received for this project," Perryman said. "Based on the excitement that has been generated by this proposal, I believe that passenger rail between Tulsa and OKC and Lawton will soon be placed on the fast track toward development and that cities and counties along that route will soon see improvements in the way that they can obtain grants and loans to complement the passenger rail with their own commuter plans.