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Rail returning to Phoenix


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#1 Palmetto

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Posted 11 January 2017 - 10:29 AM

The Arizona Department of Transportation and the Feds have picked a preferred route between Phoenix and Tuscon to establish commuter rail between the two cities.  In my mind, this opens up the possibility of returning Amtrak to Phoenix on the commuter rail line.

 

West of Phoenix, there is the old Southern Pacific line that used to carry freight and passenger trains back to the Sunset Route.  The two seem to join at a town called Wellton, AZ.  

 

In the best of all possible worlds--which includes funding for a decent Amtrak station in Phoenix, and the rehab of the line west of Phoenix--Amtrak could re-establish service there.  It doesn't have to be fast.  It just has to make it possible to pass through the city of Phoenix.    The UP railroad would also need a place to park some of their cars.  In a Google flyover of the line, there appears to be an ethanol plant west of the city, and west of that is a long string of tank cars parked on the main line, presumably for the ethanol plant.

 

I don't know the location of the former SP station in Phoenix, but if it is east of the connection to the BNSF railroad, it's not out of the question that a train could leave Phoenix and go north to Albuquerque, Denver and beyond.

 

Of course, all this is predicated on funding, so please do not use that as an out-of-hand objection to the plan.  We all know money--or lack of such--is the driving force behind having or not having a decent passenger rail system in our country.

 

Just my musings on a Tuesday morning.



#2 greatcats

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Posted 11 January 2017 - 10:41 AM

Here are some of my musings. The former station in Phienix on West Harrison Street is I believe, east of the junction with BNSF. That freight line up to Williams is in use, but is slow and indirect. The Phoenix station the last time I saw it is occupied by Sprint.
I was a commuter railroad employee in NJ for many years until 2002, and have since been a tour guide at Grand Canyon National Park and Ketchikan, Alaska. Also, have been a National Park Volunteer at Hawaii Volcanoes and now Sunset Crater Volcano near my home. If not on Amtrak, also like long road trips, camping some of the time.

#3 crabby_appleton1950

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Posted 11 January 2017 - 11:38 AM

I think something like the Pacific Surfliner train in California would be most likely.



#4 zephyr17

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Posted 11 January 2017 - 01:10 PM

Rehab of the line Welton-Phoenix is an entirely separate issue.  There is nothing wrong with the current Picacho (junction with the mainline) -Phoenix line, which is in service and in good enough shape to support Amtrak service.  If Amtrak wanted to run stub service to Phoenix from the east, there is nothing about the rail infrastructure that would prevent that.  The commuter line work is probably mostly improving the capacity.

 

The problem has always been the west end.  Unless Arizona or someone is going to pony up the money to get that stretch back into service, through service through Phoenix is a non-starter.  There is enough population and demand for some sort of commuter/corridor service Tucson-Phoenix, particularly between Phoenix and the Casa Grande area, and the proposal reflects that.  There is NOTHING between Welton and roughly Palo Verde/Buckeye.  Keep dreaming, folks.


Edited by zephyr17, 11 January 2017 - 01:10 PM.

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#5 neroden

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Posted 11 January 2017 - 02:46 PM

Second commuter rail line for Phoenix would be up the BNSF on Grand Avenue. I've proposed running Amtrak through Phoenix *that* way in the past. There are some irritating problems trying to reconnect it with the SWC route on the north end, but...
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#6 zephyr17

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Posted 11 January 2017 - 03:01 PM

The BNSF (former AT&SF) line from Phoenix to Williams Junction is kind of a  slow route, roundabout route since it has to climb the Mogollon Rim, but it is in good shape as far as I know.  Santa Fe ran a connecting train until 1968 that met the Chief or the Grand Canyon (don't recall which and don't have my 1961 Official Guide handy).


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#7 Karl1459

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Posted 11 January 2017 - 03:17 PM

Lets be happy if we can get baby steps.

 

1 or 2. Phoenix - (Picacho) - Tuscon commuter service, with a Amtrak stub tagged on (LD quality coach and drop off sleeper).

 

2 or 1. Daily Sunset Limited. Personally this would have more long distance priority especially if there was a Thruway shuttle to Phoenix.

 

3. Phoenix - Barstow (SWC connection to LA) - Bakersfield. I think there would be a good market to the San Joaquin Valley. No direct Interstate without going through LA and too many small airports to facilitate air competition



#8 bmjhagen9426

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Posted 11 January 2017 - 09:20 PM

Lets be happy if we can get baby steps.

 

1 or 2. Phoenix - (Picacho) - Tuscon commuter service, with a Amtrak stub tagged on (LD quality coach and drop off sleeper).

 

2 or 1. Daily Sunset Limited. Personally this would have more long distance priority especially if there was a Thruway shuttle to Phoenix.

 

3. Phoenix - Barstow (SWC connection to LA) - Bakersfield. I think there would be a good market to the San Joaquin Valley. No direct Interstate without going through LA and too many small airports to facilitate air competition

Although this would require going over the Tehachapi Pass, in which the UP opposes to (other than the occasional Tehachapi detour made by the CS), and also what the SP was also opposed to. As for the Daily Sunset Limited, UP wants more ransom/compensation to increase capacity, before allowing Amtrak to run daily, not to mention the obvious equipment shortages (which means changing the Cap Ltd and CONO to Viewliner equipment, or rehab-ing wreck-damaged Superliners as many as possible and/or getting more LD bilevels, all of which is unlikely)


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#9 WoodyinNYC

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Posted 11 January 2017 - 10:20 PM

Lets be happy if we can get baby steps.

 

1 or 2. Phoenix - (Picacho) - Tuscon commuter service, with a Amtrak stub tagged on (LD quality coach and drop off sleeper).

 

2 or 1. Daily Sunset Limited. Personally this would have more long distance priority especially if there was a Thruway shuttle to Phoenix.

The daily Sunset Ltd/Texas Eagle will come first. Waiting mostly for a few pieces of equipment to become available. But Amtrak can and will do this.

 

The Phoenix-Tucson train will require Arizona to commit a minimum of $2.5 to $3 Billion in order to supply the 50% match to get a federal grant for the other half.

 

In any case neither change needs to come before the other can happen.


Edited by WoodyinNYC, 11 January 2017 - 10:21 PM.


#10 west point

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Posted 12 January 2017 - 12:29 AM

IMO the Phoenix - Yuma route needs and will be restored. How the UP route gets rebuilt is higher than my pay grade. When not if the upgrading is done there needs to be mileage charges for any UP freight car that goes on that track. And you can bet UP will use it !

#11 zephyr17

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Posted 12 January 2017 - 01:18 PM

IMO the Phoenix - Yuma route needs and will be restored. How the UP route gets rebuilt is higher than my pay grade. When not if the upgrading is done there needs to be mileage charges for any UP freight car that goes on that track. And you can bet UP will use it !

It will be rebuilt when UP determines they need it for freight service.  As of now, with the Sunset route largely double tracked, they don't and short haul, like ports of LA/LB-Phoenix isn't where the money is so they don't need a faster direct route to Phoenix from the west.  Running everything going to or from Phoenix via Picacho works just dandy for UP's purposes.

 

It won't be rebuilt if the only use is for a long distance passenger train, whether by some sort of government or quasi-governmental agency or the UP itself.  If there were corridor/commuter possibilities, maybe yes, but as I mentioned before, there is nothing out there.  Since there is no road paralleling that route, there was never any sort of development, so it is truly the Big Empty out there.

 

It may "need" to be restored, the Maricopa station for Phoenix is wholly inadequate.  "Will be" is an entirely different matter.

 

IMHO, an LA-Coachella Valley-Phoenix high speed rail line is actually more likely than restoring the Sunset to the west line out of of Phoenix, assuming UP doesn't restore the line for their own purposes.  Like a 1% chance instead of 0.1%.


Edited by zephyr17, 12 January 2017 - 01:37 PM.

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#12 The Chief

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Posted 12 January 2017 - 01:35 PM

There's a link to map(s) this story

http://tucson.com/ne...42f5ac95a1.html

 

 Feds pick preferred route for possible Tucson-Phoenix passenger railway      By Murphy Woodhouse Arizona Daily Star Updated Jan 10, 2017

 


TTTTTTTT ThE ChieF TTTTTTTT

#13 neroden

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Posted 12 January 2017 - 11:10 PM

The trouble here is simply funding. Arizona Legislature has been dominated by crazy regressive 1950s cars-uber-alles extremists for a long long time. Tucson would certainly like this, but could afford rather less than 25% of the cost. The Phoenix metro area wants it too and could probably afford the whole thing, but Phoenix would rather spend its money on building out its light rail. The state government, however, doesn't want to spend anything, and until the demographics shift that, I don't see it happening. Not sure when the demographics will shift...

Honestly, if Phoenix-Tucson commuter rail happens anytime soon (seems unlikely), I would expect the Maricopa stop on the Sunset Limited to be discontinued, and passengers for Phoenix to get off at Tucson and transfer there.

I do wonder if grassroots advocacy could be built to get this project funded at the municipal level. $4.5 billion -- Tucson, Phoenix, Tempe, Mesa, Gilbert, and Chandler could float that.

Edited by neroden, 12 January 2017 - 11:23 PM.

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#14 RPC

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Posted 13 January 2017 - 09:20 AM

"As for the daily Sunset Limited, UP wants more ransom/compensation to increase capacity..." If I recall correctly, UP's opening position was $700 million for track improvements, leading Boardman to put his priorities elsewhere. However, UP has since gone ahead and made numerous capacity improvements for freight purposes. It would be interesting to know what fraction of that $700 million they've taken care of on their own.



#15 neroden

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Posted 13 January 2017 - 09:25 AM

"As for the daily Sunset Limited, UP wants more ransom/compensation to increase capacity..." If I recall correctly, UP's opening position was $700 million for track improvements, leading Boardman to put his priorities elsewhere. However, UP has since gone ahead and made numerous capacity improvements for freight purposes. It would be interesting to know what fraction of that $700 million they've taken care of on their own.


Yeah, more than half of it has been done, I think.
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#16 bretton88

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Posted 13 January 2017 - 10:54 AM

"As for the daily Sunset Limited, UP wants more ransom/compensation to increase capacity..." If I recall correctly, UP's opening position was $700 million for track improvements, leading Boardman to put his priorities elsewhere. However, UP has since gone ahead and made numerous capacity improvements for freight purposes. It would be interesting to know what fraction of that $700 million they've taken care of on their own.

Yeah, more than half of it has been done, I think.
That 700 million number is fiction anyways. If Amtrak hadn't dropped the ball, UP wouldn't have given that number. They where very open to a daily SL until Amtrak dropped the ball. Hopefully Moorman as a former railroad executive can come to successful negotiations with the UP.

If I won the lottery, I'd probably build a passenger from nowhere to nowhere.


#17 bretton88

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Posted 13 January 2017 - 10:56 AM

IMO the Phoenix - Yuma route needs and will be restored. How the UP route gets rebuilt is higher than my pay grade. When not if the upgrading is done there needs to be mileage charges for any UP freight car that goes on that track. And you can bet UP will use it !

Arizona has the cost pegged at 75-90 million to restore 79mph service on that line. As always, funding is a key issue, but it's certainly in Tiger grant range combined with funds from the UP, state and cities.

If I won the lottery, I'd probably build a passenger from nowhere to nowhere.


#18 Palmetto

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Posted 13 January 2017 - 11:31 AM

zephy17 wrote:

 

"There is NOTHING between Welton and roughly Palo Verde/Buckeye.  Keep dreaming, folks."

 

We know that, and I pointed out earlier that the line would need to be rehabilitated.  Money would be the issue, and that's not a news flash, either.



#19 zephyr17

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Posted 13 January 2017 - 03:07 PM

My point was no population = no demand for corridor/commuter service = no money

 

That isn't exactly rocket science.  My point is nobody is going to pony up the money to rehab (pretty much a total rebuild, it was in bad shape even before it was embargoed plus it needs completely new signalling) without some kind of corridor potential, no matter how badly Maricopa sucks.  There is no way a single long distance train will justify the rebuild.

 

If you want to bring up Raton-La Junta-Kansas on the Southwest Chief route, bear in mind that there are towns on the line that fought to KEEP the service.  There is nobody to fight between Phoenix and Yuma and Phoenix only protested weakly when the train was moved.  It is much tougher hill to climb to reinstate lost service than to fight to retain existing service, even tougher when the rail infrastructure is effectively gone (steel is still on ties on the ground, but the line is not even close to operable).

 

The line will become available for Amtrak service when and if UP decides it wants to run freight on it.  Period. 


Edited by zephyr17, 13 January 2017 - 03:14 PM.

SP Coast Daylight, AT&SF San Diegan, AT&SF Super Chief, D&RGW Rio Grande Zephyr, Southwest Limited/Chief, San Diegan/Pacific Surfliner, San Joaquin, Cascades, California/San Francisco Zephyr, Coast Starlight, Empire Builder, Sunset Limited (LA-Orlando), Desert Wind, Pioneer, City of New Orleans, Silver Star, Silver Meteor, Lake Shore Limited, Cardinal, Hoosier State (Amtrak),  Hoosier State (Iowa Pacific), Ann Rutledge, Adirondack, Maple Leaf, NE Regional, Capitol Limited, Via Canadian (CP route), Via Super Continental, Via Atlantic Limited, Via Hudson Bay, Via Skeena, Via Canadian (CN route), Via "Corridor" (Toronto-Montreal), BC Rail Cariboo Dayliner, Eurostar, Thalys, DB, Netherlands Rail, Austrian Railways, BR, Korail (conventional), Korail KTX


#20 zephyr17

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Posted 13 January 2017 - 03:26 PM

PS-the Phoenix station was a Union Station for both SP and Santa Fe.  The Peavine was accessible from station and Santa Fe ran passenger service to Phoenix Union Station until 1968.  Just checked Google maps and the tracks are still there and intact.  The station is at the foot of 4th Ave.

 

Flagstaff-Ash Fork-Wickenberg-Phoenix-Tucson actually does have corridor potential, although the line would be ungodly slow compared to I-17 because of the circuitous routing to get up the Mogollon Rim.  Too bad Prescott no longer on the line after the relocation of the early 60s.


Edited by zephyr17, 13 January 2017 - 03:28 PM.

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