The Arizona Department of Transportation and the Feds have just finalized a route for their proposed Phoenix-Tuscon commuter rail service. In my mind, this opens up the possibility of Amtrak once again serving Phoenix.
Contingent on this would be the renovation of the former Southern Pacific mainline that goes to Wellton, AZ and connects there with the Union Pacific's Sunset route going west to Yuma. The route doesn't have to be super-fast, but the right-of-way will need sprucing up for sure in order to begin service.
I did a Google Earth flyover of the route this morning, and it appears the track goes all the way to Wellton, except for a short stretch through an industrial area. There is also what appears to be an ethanol plant west of Phoenix, and the Union Pacific Railroad is parking tank cars on the main line to serve it. A siding would have to put in at that point to accomodate the tank cars for the ethanol plant [if that's what it is].
The distance from Phoenix to Wellton is approximately 160 miles, and to bring it up to a state of repair to allow for 79 MPH + running is going to cost a good chunk of money. I propose taking what's there, even if it's jointed rail, and sprucing it up for 60 MPH as a start. [Let's not forget the Santa Fe railroad used to run 90 MPH on well maintained jointed rail.] Signals can come later, and higher speeds can come later. It's the incremental approach to restoring service.
It would also get Amtrak our the UP dispatcher's hair for a good 200 miles.
I do not know where the Southern Pacific Station is/was located in Phoenix, or even if it is still standing. But if it is east of the connection to the BNSF mainline going north, it is not out of the question that service could be established going to Albuquerque, Denver and points north of there [the Caprock Express]. Someone earlier pointed out the paucity of north-south Amtrak routes, and this would be a good one to establish connections and connectivity to the western two-thirds of the Amtrak operation.
All of this is, of course, predicated on adequate funding, so please don't throw up an objection based solely on that. We all know that funding for passenger rail in this country is quite inadequate.
Just my musings on a fine Tuesday morning in Texas.