- Associated Press - Monday, May 5, 2014

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - The Oklahoma Transportation Commission voted unanimously Monday to sell a 97.5-mile stretch of railroad to Stillwater Central Railroad, paving the way for passenger rail and more freight service in the state.

The sale, which is expected to be completed in July, will transfer the state-owned tract known as the Sooner Subdivision to Stillwater Central Railroad, a subsidiary of WATCO of Pittsburg, Kansas. The state, which purchased the line in 1998 for salvage value, expects to net more than $67 million in profit at the time of the sale, Oklahoma Transportation Commission Chairman Greg Love said. The segment of rail line runs from east of Oklahoma City to Sapulpa, and is currently rated Class 2, meaning freight cars can move at speeds up to 25 mph and passenger rail could move 30 mph.

Out of the 882 miles of rail lines that were once owned by the state, 651 miles have been sold back to the private sector as part of a legislative initiative from last year.

As part of the sale, Stillwater Central Railroad agrees to improve the line to allow for increased speeds, continue service to current rail customers and establish a six-month trial run of daily passenger rail service within five years.

State Rep. Richard Morrissette, D-Oklahoma City, voiced dissent at Monday’s meeting, saying he and other state representatives did not support the sale. His words were met with applause from the people gathered in the room and overflow gallery.

“Once you sell it, it’s gone. The people of Oklahoma do not want this line sold,” Morrissette said.

Rep. Jason Smalley, R-Stroud, said he is proud to have accomplished this deal for his district.

“I am excited about this opportunity for the residents of Stroud as it will continue to add to the growth and stability for our city that we have seen over the last few years,” Smalley said. “It is a great feeling to see the hard work pay off for the folks I represent. This is a big win for us.”

The committee which recommended the sale was comprised of the state secretaries of commerce, finance, agriculture, energy and environment as well as representatives from the Department of Transportation and Attorney General’s offices. Four proposals were submitted, and two were considered. The other two were determined to not be in compliance with all the required provisions of a proposal.

A representative from Stillwater Central Railroad said the company is ready to make the proposal work.

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