Transportation Officials Vote to Sell Rail Line to Existing Lease Holder

Officials with the Oklahoma Department of Transportation voted to sell a rail line that runs from Oklahoma City to Sapulpa to its current lease holder.

ODOT made the decision during a regularly scheduled meeting Monday afternoon. Discussions regarding passenger rail service in Oklahoma have heated up recently after news broke that ODOT proposed selling the "Sooner Sub rail line."

Commissioners voted to sell the line to Watco Cos. for $75 million. The Kansas based company currently owns Stillwater Central Railroad Co.

ODOT's decision comes after recommendations were made by the secretaries of agriculture, commerce and transportation regarding the rail line's possible transfer to private ownership.

"If BNSF buys the line then it'll be the death knell for passenger rail service to Oklahoma," said former city councilor Rick Westcott, and now chairman of the Passenger Rail Advisory Committee.

Westcott's sentiments came after Mayor Dewey Bartlett vetoed a resolution in March passed by City Council urging state officials not to sell a rail line connecting Tulsa to Oklahoma City.

"For a passenger rail between Tulsa and OKC to be commercially viable it's going to require a very, very significant amount of money, which ODOT is not in a position to spend, much less commit to," said Bartlett.

Watco Cos. has previously stated they would work to put plans in place to offer future passenger rail service.