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Rail returning to Phoenix


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#21 neroden

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Posted 14 January 2017 - 08:43 AM

If we could get Tucson-Phoenix-Wickenburg going -- and the line is quite straight and fast from Phoenix to Wickenburg -- it would be a good start.

 

Corridor service up that line through Williams and Flagstaff might be viable even though slow, for Grand Canyon traffic alone...

 

The Prescott Line right-of-way seems completely intact from the north (east) all the way through Whipple.  On the west, the line from Prescott through Iron Springs seems to have had a road or trail built on top of it.  Around Wildwood Estates the right-of-way seems completely lost.

 

If the Ash Fork - Crookton line were rebuilt it would allow Amtrak to get rid of the crazy Williams Junction business and stop in Williams.

 

I've proposed upgrading the Arizona & California Railroad line from Wickenburg through Parker to Cadiz.  Gain Phoenix and Wickenburg, lose Yuma, probably just as fast as the existing Sunset Limited route... more expensive than rebuilding the line west from Phoenix to Yuma, though.


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#22 fredmcain

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Posted 20 September 2017 - 11:28 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 !

West Point,

 

I couldn't agree more!  As a former Arizona resident now living in Indiana, I was deeply saddened when the line was taken out of service and Phoenix lost direct Amtrak service.  Restoring the west Phoenix line and returning trains 1 & 2 to Phoenix should be a top priority for both Amtrak AND NARP.  Unfortunately, I'm afraid this isn't much of a priority by either entity.

 

However, I have come across some rather interesting and very highly puzzling information.

 

It turns out that the Union Pacific Corp has been actually maintaining automatic block signals between Phoenix yard and Arlington on the west side of Buckeye.  Even stranger is the fact that they have actually REPLACED some older signals with newer ones along this segment in recent years.  I have no idea why.

 

But what is truly bizarre is the fact that they are also maintaining the block signals along a short section of line between Welton and Roll which sees very little use.

 

I took the liberty of contacting a public relations rep at Union Pacific and asked him what, if any plans the UP has for the future of the line.  He stated that although part of the line is "out of service" they plan to keep the line for future transportation/development needs.  I couldn't help but wonder if there isn't something that they're not making public right now.

 

In any event, I hope the line gets restored in the not so distant future.  Not only to bring Amtrak back to Phoenix but this is a hole or gap in our nation's rail infrastructure system that needs to be addressed.  I suspect that the UP might be aware of that.

 

Regards,

Fred M. Cain


​Regards,

Fred M. Cain


#23 looshi

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Posted 20 September 2017 - 12:00 PM

Normally you have to receive STB permission to take a signal system out if service. I don't know if that is relevant in this situation but it sounds like it could.

#24 fredmcain

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Posted 20 September 2017 - 01:29 PM

Normally you have to receive STB permission to take a signal system out if service. I don't know if that is relevant in this situation but it sounds like it could.

Looshi,

 

Right that's true!  But what's puzzling about this is WHY the UP hasn't done that and has been maintaining the signals for all these years now.  When was the line taken out of service?  I thought it was around 1995. So, that's been over 20 years ago now.  A guy on another forum theorized that they would have to cut their way through a lot of red tape in order to receive permission to remove the block signals and with all the legal costs it might just be cheaper to keep maintaining them than to spend the necessary funding to get permission to remove them.  I think that's a partial explanation but I'm not sure it's a complete explanation.

 

Another guy yet on another forum opined that he believed the UP applied for and received permission to remove the signals for the "out of service" portion from Roll to Arlington.  So, why would they do that and not for the other two segments?  It makes little sense to me.  But, I believe that the UP has their reasons.  I just don't know what they are.

 

Another curios fact is that this so-called "out of service" section isn't really officially "abandoned".  UP does run special movements over it from time to time although that is somewhat rare from what I hear.

 

One theory that I have toyed with - and this is ONLY a guess - is that maybe UP wants to restore the line for a couple of different reasons but they are worried about possible political pressure they might receive to let Amtrak back on there and they are concerned about the possible hassles and liability of carrying passenger over the subdivision.  Not impossible but just a wild guess.  I don't have the facts.  But I wish I did.

 

 

Regards,

Fred M. Cain


​Regards,

Fred M. Cain


#25 west point

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Posted 20 September 2017 - 02:16 PM

It may be that  "IF"  the Sunset ever goes daily that the Phoenix west line might be reactivated ?  Even more so if a daily LAX <> PHX <> Tucson train is ever started ? 



#26 jis

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Posted 20 September 2017 - 02:22 PM

Specially if they can extract the entire cost of installing PTC there :)



#27 west point

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Posted 20 September 2017 - 02:34 PM

Installation requirements for PTC rules are complicated.  Maybe would not be needed PHX west ?  More likely maybe PHX east ?



#28 MikefromCrete

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Posted 20 September 2017 - 05:12 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 !

West Point,

 

I couldn't agree more!  As a former Arizona resident now living in Indiana, I was deeply saddened when the line was taken out of service and Phoenix lost direct Amtrak service.  Restoring the west Phoenix line and returning trains 1 & 2 to Phoenix should be a top priority for both Amtrak AND NARP.  Unfortunately, I'm afraid this isn't much of a priority by either entity.

 

However, I have come across some rather interesting and very highly puzzling information.

 

It turns out that the Union Pacific Corp has been actually maintaining automatic block signals between Phoenix yard and Arlington on the west side of Buckeye.  Even stranger is the fact that they have actually REPLACED some older signals with newer ones along this segment in recent years.  I have no idea why.

 

But what is truly bizarre is the fact that they are also maintaining the block signals along a short section of line between Welton and Roll which sees very little use.

 

I took the liberty of contacting a public relations rep at Union Pacific and asked him what, if any plans the UP has for the future of the line.  He stated that although part of the line is "out of service" they plan to keep the line for future transportation/development needs.  I couldn't help but wonder if there isn't something that they're not making public right now.

 

In any event, I hope the line gets restored in the not so distant future.  Not only to bring Amtrak back to Phoenix but this is a hole or gap in our nation's rail infrastructure system that needs to be addressed.  I suspect that the UP might be aware of that.

 

Regards,

Fred M. Cain

 

 

 

There might be some big industrial or mining project in the works. UP certainly doesn't need the line for its through freight traffic. 



#29 Palmland

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Posted 20 September 2017 - 06:24 PM

It's great to contemplate renewal of service from Phoenix west. However, I'd be happy with regional service Phoenix to Tucson. If that happened Amtrak should be smart enough to modify the Sunset schedule to mesh with that service and do away with the silly middle of the night bus ride (which is better than no bus ride at all). If that is sucessful and the Sunset goes daily, then the next step would be back on the original route via Phoenix.

#30 fredmcain

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Posted 21 September 2017 - 07:07 AM

 

 

 

 

There might be some big industrial or mining project in the works. UP certainly doesn't need the line for its through freight traffic. 

 

 

 

Mike,

 

Yes, it might be a number of different things.  Maybe they are trying to catch a huge fish that they don't quite have in the net yet.  Could be an automotive assembly plant or a huge container distribution center.  Phoenix's west side might be a good place for either one of those.  Someone on another forum opined yesterday that he thought that with Arizona's rapid growth, "The Phoenix metro has become a warehousing center for not only Arizona, but Southern California, as well."  So, there is huge potential there.   Another guess might have to do with the Nuclear power plant near Arlington.  When and if they were to begin shipping out nuclear waste to the on-again, off-again, possibly on-again Yucca waste site in Nevada, the West Phoenix line could become an obvious routing.

 

Years ago, in the late '90s, I wrote to the UP at Omaha about the West Phoenix line.  Their response cited several reasons why they are reluctant to salvage the line. One thing that was mentioned was the potential for a future LA-Phoenix passenger route.  Obviously the UP would NEVER be interested in offering such a service to the public BUT they might receive some other kind of indirect benefit.  Maybe in the form of usage fees or government funded track improvements that would indirectly benefit freight service. That is kind of what happened in Illinois with the Chicago-St. Louis Corridor.   I still believe that if the old Phoenix line were rebuilt into a fast, super rail route, it would be an excellent  "pop off valve" for the mainline through Casa Grande and Gila.

 

Regards,

Fred M. Cain


​Regards,

Fred M. Cain


#31 west point

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Posted 21 September 2017 - 12:31 PM

"IF" any major shipper / facility is built along the Phoenix west line.

1.   If major shipments to / from the west that will increase the likely hood of reactivating the line.

2.  The further west along the line the facility is the more likely that the whole line will be reactivated especially if a certain level of traffic can go west .   



#32 brianpmcdonnell17

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Posted 21 September 2017 - 12:39 PM

If the line was reopened by UP, how open would they be to moving the SL back through Phoenix? Traffic would likely be lighter on the reopened line so it could actually reduce the congestion for freight traffic.

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#33 fredmcain

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Posted 21 September 2017 - 01:55 PM

If the line was reopened by UP, how open would they be to moving the SL back through Phoenix? Traffic would likely be lighter on the reopened line so it could actually reduce the congestion for freight traffic.

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Yes, I've thought about that too.  But they might also be concerned about potential liability of sending passengers over the line - especially through such a remote area.  Amtrak, on the other hand, seems to be content with the status quo of stopping in Maricopa.  To me this is unacceptable.  Today the greater Phoenix metropolitan area is huge.   On the north it extends up to around Black Rock or Bumblebee.  Someone living up there would have a long trip to get to the train at Maricopa.

 

I have also felt that Amtrak could've fought the move harder back in '95 (or whenever it was).  It also frustrates and discourages me that Amtrak doesn't seemed to be too inclined at seeking out and searching for new and improved markets.  That might be a subject for another thread.

 

It would almost appear that neither anyone at Amtrak - or even NARP for that matter - cares much about the Phoenix issue.  They have what they see as greater issues that need to be addressed.  After 46 years now, will America ever be able to look forward to an adequate inter city rails system?

 

Regards,

Fred M.Cain


​Regards,

Fred M. Cain


#34 Karl1459

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Posted 21 September 2017 - 06:30 PM

The worst case (from an Amtrak perspective) would be that UP would reopen that segment as a part of a directional running scheme to avoid double tracking from Maricopa to wherever the Phoenix line rejoins the SL route.



#35 fredmcain

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Posted 22 September 2017 - 07:40 AM

The worst case (from an Amtrak perspective) would be that UP would reopen that segment as a part of a directional running scheme to avoid double tracking from Maricopa to wherever the Phoenix line rejoins the SL route.

Karl,

 

In the late 1990s, I took it upon myself to write to the UP in Omaha urging them to keep the West Phoenix line and I cited four justifications for keeping it in place and improving it.  One of my points was that it could be used in a directional running scheme with all westbounds moving on the Phoenix line and all eastbounds on the Gila line (or vice versa).

 

Actually, they were not keen on that idea.  It seems they are leery of moving a lot of big, heavy freight trains through downtown Mesa, Tempe and Phoenix.  So, I can't really see this happening.

 

I think the line COULD be revived along the same type of scheme that they have been pursuing for the Southwest Chief route across western Kansas and southeast Colorado.  That line actually has an issue similar to the Phoenix line.  If the State of Arizona could come up with some funds perhaps they could attract a "Tiger" grant or something as was done on the Southwest Chief line.  What fails here is the interest.  Seems like no one at Amtrak or even NARP has given much interest to this.  NARP is also not as good at responding to e-mails like they used to be.  Back in the good ol' Ross Capon days, someone always got back to me.

 

I'm not sure that there are many residents and businesses in the Salt River Valley that have given the West Phoenix line too much thought.  This is a shame.


​Regards,

Fred M. Cain


#36 zephyr17

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Posted 22 September 2017 - 12:28 PM

One difference between southeast Colorado and Kansas is that the line has a number of small towns along it, Trinidad, La Junta, Garden City, Dodge City, Hutchinson, etc.  There are no towns and no stops west of Phoenix metro to support the service, heck, there isn't even a paved road.


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#37 frequentflyer

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Posted 22 September 2017 - 01:45 PM

With as much traffic there is between PHX and Southern California Basin,especially by air, I am surprised that Amtrak can find a business case for an overnight train on the nights the SL does not operate. 



#38 WoodyinNYC

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Posted 22 September 2017 - 02:01 PM

With as much traffic there is between PHX and Southern California Basin,especially by air, I am surprised that Amtrak can find a business case for an overnight train on the nights the SL does not operate. 

The business case would be the easy part. Getting enuff cars and locomotives seems almost impossible.

 

And it's another too-short corridor. Since it is less than 750 miles, it would require the states to subsidize the operating losses. I can see California stepping up to cover half, but Arizona?

 

But I think it's a good idea.


Edited by WoodyinNYC, 22 September 2017 - 02:06 PM.


#39 jis

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Posted 23 September 2017 - 05:38 AM

How do you have a credible business case that conveniently elides how the service is going to be equipped and provisioned? Seems like a very incomplete business case if you ask me


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#40 fredmcain

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Posted 25 September 2017 - 09:09 AM

One difference between southeast Colorado and Kansas is that the line has a number of small towns along it, Trinidad, La Junta, Garden City, Dodge City, Hutchinson, etc.  There are no towns and no stops west of Phoenix metro to support the service, heck, there isn't even a paved road.

What is it about those towns, really?  Isn't it just that they were vocal and outspoken?  My suspicion is that too many people and businesses in the Salt River Valley are indifferent to bringing the Sunset Limited back to Phoenix.  The similarities between the Southwest Chief route and the Phoenix line are that they are both former premier passenger lines that the parent freight railroad lost interest in.  I suspect that if the states and the feds would invest in the SW Chief line with good track, PTC and CTC then, voila !  The BNSF will suddenly and miraculously become interested in keeping the line. (That's kinda sorta happened with the Devils Lake line in North Dakota).

 

My prayer and wish is that if the Sunset ever returns to Phoenix, they could offer stops at Gilbert, Mesa, Tempe and Buckeye as well as downtown Phoenix.  All those communities have witnessed explosive growth in recent years.  And let's check baggage to Phoenix and at least one other stop for crying out loud!  I mean, after all, "snowbirds" who head to Phoenix for an extended winter stay are gonna have some luggage with them!

 

What I have always lamented as a very, very sad development was that the community of Tempe labored long and hard and waged a valiant effort to establish an Amtrak stop in their community.  After trying for years, and rehabbing the old SP depot using largely local funds, the day finally, finally, FINALLY came when they were met with success. Or, so they thought.  Once Amtrak began calling at Tempe, they only stopped there for a couple of years before they vacated the Phoenix line altogether.

 

And so it has gone with intercity rail passenger advocacy since 1971.  Just when you think you have made some progress, that progress is lost again or "vaporizes".  There are so many, many examples of this.  The Phoenix line is only the tip of the  iceberg.  I could cite many other examples but I strongly suspect that most of you on this list are already aware of them. Will America EVER have an adequate intercity rail passenger system that's an improvement over the third world?  I hope so but it's sure easy to become discouraged.


​Regards,

Fred M. Cain





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