Shane Marler, a Hillsboro city council member and interim director of the Peabody Main Street Association, said local support ultimately will take the form of a petition to the Kansas Department of Transportation.
“We have signed resolutions and we are in the process of having signatures on petitions that we will take to Ron Kaufman of KDOT that will show the support we’ve gathered to make Peabody an Amtrak stop,” Marler said.
The Houston Chronicle recently reported that the Northern Flyer Alliance, “a conglomerate of cities, civic organizations and businesses interested in expanding passenger rail service across the region, has convinced 23 cities and towns in (Oklahoma and Kansas) to endorse the idea of carving out a new northern route for the Heartland Flyer.”
The Heartland Flyer is a rail route that connects Oklahoma City to Fort Worth, Texas, and serves the cities of Norman, Purcell, Paul’s Valley, Ardmore and Gainsville along the way.
The proposed Northern Flyer route would connect Kansas City to Wichita through Newton and would continue south to join up with the Heartland Flyer at Oklahoma City.
“Peabody is a fantastic location in the county,” Marler said. “The more people we have coming and going through the county, the better off we are.”
According to a study for the Oklahoma Department of Transportation, the Heartland Flyer has sold roughly 500,000 tickets in six years and the new source of traffic has brought $23 million into the economies of the cities served.
Whether the lines would be a boon to Marion County commuters is questionable, given the high prices and long trips associated with travel by rail. But with the cost of fuel rising, some trips by train might begin to compare favorably with the price of driving the same distance.
The Chronicle reported that one-way tickets on the Heartland Flyer cost $24. By comparison, the cost of gas for a drive from Oklahoma City to Fort Worth for a motorist who pays $3 per gallon and averages 25 miles per gallon would be $24.
Commuting is hardly the only reason to travel. Passengers on the Northern Flyer include, according to an April 27 story in the Wichita Eagle, “people who can’t drive, vacationers, businesspeople, college students and grade school students on field trips.”
According to Marler, Peabody would be “a fantastic access point to Marion County” for people who have never been here.
“Peabody is in my opinion a very unique town,” he said. “We have 42 buildings downtown that are on the national historic registry of deeds so it is its own attraction.”