Could Amtrak passenger trains return to Phoenix? Why Rep. Greg Stanton is pushing for it

Rep. Greg Stanton is pushing to return long-distance train access to Phoenix, the largest city in the U.S. to not have intercity passenger rail service.

In doing so, Stanton, D-Ariz., is continuing his work as Phoenix mayor to expand train access and promote public transportation.

Not having intercity rail service not only impedes the mobility of Phoenix residents, but others trying to visit Arizona's capital, leading to negative financial consequences.

“Phoenix is the largest city in the United States without access to passenger rail service,” Stanton said Tuesday at a House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee hearing on Amtrak operations. “As other communities have gained access to passenger rail, they’ve experienced significant new economic opportunities. But Arizona has missed out.”

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Amtrak's return, Stanton said, would be an “opportunity to connect our communities, make them more accessible and productive, and more internationally competitive. Opportunity to boost our regional economies with better access to jobs and more private investment along the route. Opportunity to ease congestion along Interstate 10 and help reduce air pollution.”

Stanton has long been a proponent of mass transit. As mayor from 2012 to 2018, Stanton advocated for and expanded light rail service in Phoenix. In 2014, he told Bloomberg: "I love public transportation."

Amtrak is seeking to improve and extend service using about $716 million provided by the 2022 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

On Monday, Amtrak turned in applications for those enterprises, which include the Corridor Identification and Development Program.

Part of this initiative would include bringing back to Phoenix a stop for the Sunset Limited, a train that runs from New Orleans to Los Angeles. The Sunset Limited stopped Phoenix service in 1996 because of the cost of upgrading the train tracks between Buckeye and Wellton, east of Yuma. The train instead was redirected to Maricopa, about 35 miles away from Phoenix.

The Arizona Department of Transportation has put forward a proposal to the Corridor ID program to advance train development in the state, backed by $3.5 million in state dollars for planning.

Stanton and other lawmakers are also pushing for the long-sought-after train service between Tucson and Phoenix, but that is likely to come after the Sunset Limited stop.

"This support for the Return to Phoenix Project will finally bring together Arizona communities, the railroads, and Amtrak to develop a comprehensive plan to connect Phoenix and Tucson with passenger rail and connect Phoenix to Amtrak’s nationwide network,” Sen. Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., said in a written statement.

The traffic-plagued I-10 highway is the only way of traveling to and from Phoenix and Tucson.

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Tara Kavaler is a politics reporter at The Arizona Republic. She can be reached by email at or on Twitter @kavalertara

This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Phoenix lacks passenger rail service. Rep. Stanton wants Amtrack back