By Monica Navarro

This week, Arizona Congressman Greg Stanton announced that the Arizona Department of Transportation will receive a $500,000 grant to help support efforts to re-establish daily passenger rail service between Phoenix and Tucson.

Stanton's office said Tuesday in a press release that the Federal Railroad Administration Corridor Identification and Development grant is "the first step in re-establishing Amtrak service between Phoenix and Tucson."

Earlier this year, Amtrak applied for approximately $716 million in Federal Railroad Administration funding for 16 projects across the country — including the return of the Sunset Limited to Phoenix.

The Sunset Limited travels between Los Angeles and New Orleans. In 1996, the train’s path was rerouted from Phoenix to pass through Maricopa, 38 miles south of the old Union Station downtown after a train derailment caused tens of millions of dollars in damages to the tracks the previous year.

Authorities said just before the October 1995 crash, track in the Arizona desert near the town of Hyder had been intentionally pulled apart. More than 100 passengers were injured and one Amtrak employee was killed. The motive is still unknown and the case is still unsolved.

Nearly 30 years later, Phoenix is the largest city in the United States without passenger rail service. Stanton, the city’s former mayor, is working to change that. 

“We’ve been without service for a long period of time, and it’s too long. I mean how much has the city and the Valley grown, both in terms of population and the number of jobs created?” said Stanton.

Earlier this year, Stanton spoke in support of Amtrak’s pursuit of funds through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.