Phoenix May Get Passenger Train Service Again By 2035

By Matthew Casey
Published: Monday, April 5, 2021 - 5:05am
Updated: Monday, April 19, 2021 - 11:41am

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

President Joe Biden’s infrastructure improvement plan would bring Amtrak passenger service back to Phoenix for the first time in decades.

Since the 1990s, the closest Amtrak station to Arizona’s capital has been in Pinal County.

Amtrak says Biden’s infrastructure plan would mean new service between Phoenix and Tucson by 2035.

The timeline is too long on a plan that seems aspirational, said Jon Talton, a former Arizona Republic columnist, Phoenix historian and author of the blog Rogue Columnist.

Talton said one problem is the yearly fight in Congress over funding Amtrak, while every common carrier in the world is subsidized.

“Amtrak needs a steady stream of funding that just is there," Talton said. 

Phoenix officials should buy the old Union Station downtown, said Talton. Then do what other big western cities have done: restore the 1920s historic landmark so it can be used for the new Amtrak service, and a local public transit hub.

Another advocate for use of passenger trains praised Biden’s infrastructure. Members of All Aboard Arizona think a new route going from Tucson to near Los Angeles would make it easier for trains to eventually move people between Flagstaff and Tucson.

“We do see some areas where it could be tweaked in the sense of adding more service that would actually enhance the service improvements that they’re proposing,” said Todd Liebman, president of All Aboard Arizona.

Another option, Liebman said, is to add a second route from eastern Arizona to El Paso and possibly beyond. He called Biden's plan a “dramatic step in the right direction.”

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