Q&AZ: Will Phoenix, Tucson Ever Get Train Service?

By Will Stone
Published: Friday, November 23, 2018 - 5:05am
Updated: Wednesday, June 10, 2020 - 11:52am

For decades, there has been talk of a rail service linking Arizona’s two biggest cities. But will it ever happen? KJZZ listener Liana Garcia asked that via our Q&AZ reporting project.

It turns out there are a couple of ways that Phoenix and Tucson could get this long-awaited rail service. There are also some hurdles too.

The Arizona constitution may be one of the biggest. It requires the state to use transportation related tax dollars for highways, not rail services. But transit guru Tony Trifiletti said don’t give up hope.

“We have to get the private sector involved in this,” said Trifiletti who is director of All Aboard Arizona, a nonprofit that advocates for more public transit.

He said a recent study found a high-speed connector would cost $6 billion and take up to two decades to build.

But Trifiletti said an alternative route “would basically use the Union Pacific line between Phoenix and Tucson for standard rail speed — nothing fancy — just your normal 79 miles per hour.”

“Understand your intercity train would make a couple of stops in the Phoenix suburbs and then probably run nonstop to Marana or Tucson itself.”

Trifiletti said a Florida rail service company called Brightline is exploring this option in Arizona. If that deal is finalized, Trifiletti said the actual project could take as little as three years to build out.

A separate transit plan that could include a commuter rail is also in the works for Maricopa County. That could go in front of voters in 2022, but service would not reach Tucson, according to the Maricopa Association of Governments.

Bottom line: will Tucson and Phoenix get rail service? Nothing is certain, but Trifiletti said he would put his money on it.