Officials say service would boost savings, ease traffic on Interstate 10
With the exception of the light rail, no passenger train service is available in the Phoenix metro area. Many Phoenix-area residents, especially the younger generations, don’t realize that this service has been operating in the Arizona capital for a century – and may soon be doing it again.
Amtrak, the government-run passenger train system, turns 50 this year. Between 1971 and 1996, Amtrak stopped at historic Union Station at 401 South 4th Avenue in downtown Phoenix. The structure was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in November 1985.
Opened in 1923, Union Station was the main travel hub in Phoenix before Sky Harbor Airport took on this designation in the 1950s. Amtrak then operated the passenger train line through Phoenix called Sunset Limited. This route, born in 1894, crosses the country from New Orleans to Los Angeles. It is the oldest named train line in the United States, predating Amtrak. The train stopped in Tucson before reaching Phoenix, then California.
In October 1995, an Amtrak train on this route derailed about 50 miles west of Phoenix in an isolated desert expanse. Eight of the twelve cars derailed, four of which fell 30 feet from a trestle and into a dry riverbed below.
One person, an Amtrak employee, was killed. Seventy-eight people were injured. A foul play caused the derailment, but the case was never resolved.
Shortly thereafter, Amtrak service to Phoenix was discontinued, and Union Station, already in poor condition, was permanently closed to passenger service on June 3, 1996. The Amtrak route between New Orleans and LA s’ Still stops in the town of Maricopa, over 35 miles to the south. of Phoenix.
However, the planned renovation of Union Station and the restoration of Amtrak service from Tucson to Phoenix are part of the Biden administration’s $ 1.2 trillion infrastructure program.
Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego and Tucson Mayor Regina Romero, along with a dozen other Arizona mayors, are urging the Arizona congressional delegation to support the measure. They say it will create $ 77.7 million per year in local economic activity, as well as a one-time federal investment of $ 1.9 billion in infrastructure.
It would also connect Arizona’s two largest metropolitan areas by passenger train again.