OKLAHOMA CITY — Extending Amtrak, improving rural highway shoulders and adding electric vehicle charging stations were some ideas Gov. Kevin Stitt pitched last week to President Joe Biden’s transportation secretary, Pete Buttigieg.
“I was pitching Oklahoma and talking about some of the projects that are important to our state,” Stitt said.
Stitt met Thursday with Buttigieg while the transportation secretary was in Oklahoma City for a tour of the Federal Aviation Administration’s Mike Monroney Aeronautical Center.
Stitt, a Republican, said he has been working with Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly, a Democrat, on a proposal to extend Amtrak’s Heartland Flyer passenger rail service into Kansas. The rail line, which opened in 1999, runs from Oklahoma City to Fort Worth.
“Basically, it would connect all of Oklahoma and all of Texas to the east-west lines and give them access to California and up to Chicago,” Stitt said. “I was really planting that seed that we need to finish that line here in Oklahoma. The state would participate. Also, we have Kansas on record to help me with that, as well.”
People are also reading…
The Oklahoma Department of Transportation is working with the Kansas Department of Transportation on a study to figure out the viability of a Heartland Flyer route north, said Bryce Boyer, an ODOT spokesman. He said the route could connect to Newton, Kansas, which is north of Wichita and has an Amtrak station.
The governor also talked up Route 66 when he visited with Buttigieg. Oklahoma has more miles of the road than any other state, he noted.
“I was talking to him about maybe doing some electric vehicle battery charging stations along Route 66 getting ready for the 100th anniversary” of the historic highway, Stitt said.
Boyer said there are currently 24 electric vehicle charging stations along Route 66 in Oklahoma, but they are not affiliated with ODOT.
Route 66’s centennial is in 2026. Many states along the route, including Oklahoma, are planning special events that will draw more tourists.
Route 66, also called the Mother Road, is 2,448 miles long and stretches from Chicago to Los Angeles. It was the first all-paved U.S. highway.
The governor said he and Buttigieg also discussed two-lane highways that don’t have shoulders.
“We have 5,000 miles of rural, two-lane highways in Oklahoma,” Stitt said. “That is where some heavy fatalities are.”
Stitt said one of his initiatives is to add shoulders to those roads. An eight-year plan deals with 1,000 miles, he said.
“I was asking him to kind of help me supercharge that,” Stitt said. “That is something I think he is also interested in.”