Tucson to Phoenix Amtrak service may be on track

Several Arizona mayors, led by Tucson Mayor Regina Romero and Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego, are...
Several Arizona mayors, led by Tucson Mayor Regina Romero and Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego, are asking Arizona’s congressional delegation to support Amtrak’s proposed expansion of frequent and reliable passenger rail service.((Source: KFVS))
Published: Jul. 15, 2021 at 4:53 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Tucked away in the bipartisan infrastructure bill working its way through Congress, is $66 billion for Amtrak.

The money would be used to upgrade track, passenger service and the trains themselves, along with adding a series of new routes.

One of those routes will be, if the bill gets through Congress and lands on President Biden’s desk, Tucson to Phoenix three times a day.

There will be an additional daily route from Tucson to Los Angeles.

“There hasn’t been passenger rail service in Tucson, from Tucson to Phoenix, since the 1990s,” said Tucson Mayor Regina Romero.

Which is why Mayor Romero and Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego penned a letter to Congress urging its members to pass the bipartisan bill.

Not only is the bill bipartisan, but the letter is as well, including the names and signatures of every mayor in Pima County, Republican and Democrat.

“We need to start thinking about ways to invest in passenger rail and other types of transit services not just expansion of freeways,” Romero said.

A study done by the Arizona Department of Transportation completed in 2015 shows the commute from Tucson to Phoenix in 2010 took 113 minutes. By 2035, even with Interstate 10 expanded to eight lanes, it will take 142 minutes. And by 2050, with all the growth, it’s estimated to take 180 minutes, a full three hours.

“What’s the prospect of getting it done,” asked Sen. Mark Kelly, in Tucson for a listening session with local leaders. “We’ve got to get the legislation passed.”

The legislation was hammered out by 11 Democrats and 11 Republicans and has support of the White House. It’s hoped there will be a vote by next week. The final dollar total is near $1.2 trillion.

“Now it’s a matter of pulling more people in and getting it across the finish line,” Senator Kelly said.

If the measure is approved it will cost an estimated $1.9 billion to add the additional infrastructure needed for the service and it will return an estimated $77 million to the Arizona economy annually.

But for Romero is goes beyond the economics to the environmental as well a parts of Tucson’s strategy to eliminate greenhouse gases.

“It’s a wonderful investment for the elimination of greenhouse gas emissions,” she said. “And for taking people from their cars eliminating conjestion.”

But also, if the passenger service proves a success, it will pave the way for the real prize which is high speed commuter service between the two cities.

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