PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- Amtrak could be returning to Phoenix by 2035, according to a presentation given to the Rail Passengers Association in September.
In the presentation, Amtrak's senior director of State and Local Government Affairs Ray Lang laid out plans to spend $25 billion on corridor expansions across the United States.
Was there a Amtrak Service from Mesa to Phoenix in 1980? Yes, It happened. And the story is very much weather related.
One of the "corridors under review" is the line from Los Angeles to Palm Springs to Phoenix to Tucson. Phoenix remains the largest city in the U.S. without Amtrak passenger train service. Amtrak trains haven't stopped in Phoenix since June of 1996.
The discontinuation came after the derailment of the Sunset Limited near Hyder, Arizona. The passenger train plunged into a dry gulch, killing a crewman and injuring 78 people about 70 miles west of Phoenix in the twilight hours of October 9, 1995, while heading to California from Florida. The FBI and Amtrak committed to the pursuit and capture of the saboteurs involved in the derailment, and in 2015, offered a $300,000 reward for information leading to an arrest.
Rather than spending tens of millions of dollars to make the secondary line suitable for faster speeds, Amtrak stopped serving Phoenix and bypassed the city along a stretch of mainline, stopping instead in Maricopa.
"The current station 35 miles south in the Town of Maricopa is just a non-starter," said Michael Kuby, a professor at the ASU School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning. "For Amtrak and intercity rail service to succeed, it's got to connect to other ways to get to your final destination."
Kuby says Union Station could be revitalized with restaurants and other amenities to become a feature of Phoenix's growing downtown.
And while the Phoenix stop could allow for long-haul travel, Kuby says the majority of the use will come from commuters.
"We have a lot of room to expand on the Phoenix to California trips and the Phoenix to Texas trips," Kuby said. "But I think the big fish is giving the tens of thousands of people who commute daily between the Tucson and Phoenix metropolitan areas an alternative to driving."
A spokesperson for Amtrak released the following statement on the potential future service: Amtrak met with officials representing the Phoenix and Tucson region last summer to discuss our vision for reestablishing service to Phoenix. We were pleased with the positive responses from everyone we met with, which is consistent with how our proposals have been received elsewhere in the country. We are now working with officials in Washington to create federal grant programs that could help Amtrak and the States fund the construction and operation of these new services. Phoenix remains one of the largest metro areas in the country without direct Amtrak service and we are excited about the possibility of coming back there.