Stephenson says Ponca City is interested in passenger rail service

February 9, 2021 | Featured|Headlines

PONCA CITY — City Manager Craig Stephenson told city commissioners Monday that the Kansas State Legislature is holding a zoom meeting at 11:45 a.m. Wednesday to discuss passenger rail service.

“They are pushing hard for the Amtrak connection between Newton, Kan. and Oklahoma City, the Heartland Flyer extension,” said Stephenson. “I received a call from Amtrak wanting to know if we are still interested and I said we are very interested.”

City manager Craig Stephenson addresses city commissioners Monday.

Stephenson said the representative who called was on the demo train that traveled through Ponca City recently and that he saw the turn out in Ponca City. “This may be a great opportunity with all the stimulus money and all the things the federal government wants us to do to maybe get  passenger rail service back in north central Oklahoma, more specifically in Ponca City.”

The Southwest Chief, which connects California to Illinois, is shown at Chicago Union Station on Dec. 14. Advocates of passenger rail are hoping to extend the Heartland Flyer Amtrak train’s route to Kansas, where it would connect with the Chief. photo by Jordan Green.

Weather causes trash collection delays

Stephenson told commissioners that the icy weather has caused trash collection delays on Monday. “If your trash wasn’t picked up today, it will be picked up on Thursday,” said Stephenson. “I apologize for the inconvenience. Both icy conditions and the difficulty making sure our employees are as safe as you can and we don’t want to damage our vehicles with others. So they took it slow.” 

Stephenson noted that the City Commission work session is scheduled for Feb. 15 and that a potential building site for Ponca City’s Habitat for Humanity will be discussed.

Stephenson gave commissioners an update on the status of virtual meeting legislature. The State Legislature is taking up the possibility of allowing for virtual meetings until Feb. 15, 2022 or until the Governor declares that this medial emergency has ended, whichever comes first. The Senate has passed an emergency bill that mirrors the one from last session.  Stephenson said the House should take action on it this week and then it will be sent to the Governor’s Desk for signature.  The Legislature is also working on a more permanent and detailed bill that would provide for virtual meetings when the Governor declares a medical emergency in the future.

(see story below)