Arizona gets federal funding for Phoenix-Tucson passenger rail planning

Dec 6, 2023, 10:00 AM | Updated: Dec 8, 2023, 10:59 am

File photo of an Amtrak train. The Arizona Department of Transportation was awarded $500,000 from t...

The Arizona Department of Transportation was awarded $500,000 from the Federal Railroad Administration Corridor Identification and Development program to help cover the costs of planning an Amtrak line between Phoenix and Tucson. (Amtrak File Photo)

(Amtrak File Photo)

PHOENIX – The first federal funds have been allocated for reestablishing passenger rail service between Phoenix and Tucson, U.S. Rep. Greg Stanton of Arizona announced Tuesday.

The Arizona Department of Transportation was awarded $500,000 to help cover the costs of planning an Amtrak line between the state’s two largest cities, Stanton said in a press release.

The grant comes from the Federal Railroad Administration Corridor Identification and Development program, which was established through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

Amtrak also was awarded $500,000 to make improvements on its Sunset Limited line, which runs through Arizona but bypasses Phoenix, the nation’s largest city without intercity passenger train service.

Arizona has received more than $349 million to improve public transportation via the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which was passed in 2021, according to the offices of U.S. Sens. Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly.

ADOT has already provided $3.5 million in state funds for the Phoenix planning phase, which includes developing a cost estimate for the project.

What is Amtrak’s Sunset Limited train line?

In June of this year, Amtrak applied for $716 million in funding from the Federal Railroad Administration for 16 projects nationwide, including routing the Sunset Limited train line through Phoenix.

The Sunset Limited runs between Los Angeles and New Orleans and has multiple stops in California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and Louisiana.

The closest it gets to Phoenix is Maricopa, about 40 miles to the south. The other Arizona stops are in Yuma, Tucson and Benson. Amtrak Service in Phoenix was discontinued in 1996.

How would Arizona benefit from Phoenix-Tucson passenger rail?

Stanton, a Democrat, spoke in support of the Phoenix-Tucson project during a June 6 House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee hearing.

The former Phoenix mayor said there is strong local and state support to link Arizona’s two largest cities by passenger rail. He said it would make communities more accessible and productive, boost regional economies and ease congestion and air pollution caused by traffic on Interstate 10.

“As other communities have gained access to passenger rail, they’ve experienced significant new economic opportunities, but Arizona, thus far, has missed out. I’m hopeful that will change,” Stanton said during the hearing.

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Arizona gets federal funding for Phoenix-Tucson passenger rail planning