Q&AZ: What Happened To The Railroad Line West Of Phoenix?

By Scott Bourque
Published: Monday, September 23, 2019 - 3:27pm

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Q&AZ is supported in part by Sierra Nevada Brewing Company

Union Station in downtown Phoenix
Sky Schaudt/KJZZ
Union Station in downtown Phoenix in June 2019.

A listener asked us why the Union Pacific railroad tracks between Buckeye and Yuma were abandoned in 1995, forcing Amtrak trains to stop in Maricopa instead of Phoenix. 

The last time an Amtrak train served Phoenix, Bill Clinton was in his first term in the White House. Since then, Phoenix is the largest American city without Amtrak rail service — and remains the largest city in the country without a railroad mainline. 

Since the Amtrak trains stopped running, the line running from Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station, about 50 miles west of Phoenix, to Wellton, a town east of Yuma, has been mostly unused. 

According to Tim McMahan from Union Pacific, the line is still active. It’s called the Roll Industrial Lead, named for the tiny community of Roll, which sits along the line.  It serves several industrial customers on either side of the track.

There are currently no plans for Amtrak to restore service to Phoenix along that line, but Phoenix Union Station could be re-opened as part of a future commuter rail service proposed in Maricopa County’s 2040 transit plan.