This $500K grant is a step toward bringing Amtrak passenger train service back to Phoenix

By Monica Navarro
Published: Thursday, December 7, 2023 - 11:08am
Updated: Thursday, December 7, 2023 - 11:10am

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

This week, Arizona Congressman Greg Stanton announced that the Arizona Department of Transportation will receive a $500,000 grant to help support efforts to re-establish daily passenger rail service between Phoenix and Tucson.

Stanton's office said Tuesday in a press release that the Federal Railroad Administration Corridor Identification and Development grant is "the first step in re-establishing Amtrak service between Phoenix and Tucson."

Earlier this year, Amtrak applied for approximately $716 million in Federal Railroad Administration funding for 16 projects across the country — including the return of the Sunset Limited to Phoenix.

The Sunset Limited travels between Los Angeles and New Orleans. In 1996, the train’s path was rerouted from Phoenix to pass through Maricopa, 38 miles south of the old Union Station downtown after a train derailment caused tens of millions of dollars in damages to the tracks the previous year.

Amtrak derailment Arizona
FBI
The Amtrak derailment near Hyder, Arizona, in 1995.

Authorities said just before the October 1995 crash, track in the Arizona desert near the town of Hyder had been intentionally pulled apart. More than 100 passengers were injured and one Amtrak employee was killed. The motive is still unknown and the case is still unsolved.

Nearly 30 years later, Phoenix is the largest city in the United States without passenger rail service. Stanton, the city’s former mayor, is working to change that. 

“We’ve been without service for a long period of time, and it’s too long. I mean how much has the city and the Valley grown, both in terms of population and the number of jobs created?” said Stanton.

Earlier this year, Stanton spoke in support of Amtrak’s pursuit of funds through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

An Amtrak train on the California Zephyr
Amtrak
An Amtrak train on the California Zephyr route.

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