Arizona Passenger Rail Corridor Study potentially includes three airport stops

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USA: The Arizona Department of Transportation, in partnership with the Federal Railroad Administration, has released the Draft Tier 1 Environmental Impact Statement for ADOT’s Passenger Rail Corridor Study: Tucson to Phoenix. While the proposed passenger rail project has no identified funding, this environmental impact statement is a step closer to identifying the cost, impacts and benefits from a rail system serving passengers in Arizona.

The Draft Tier 1 Environmental Impact Statement considers two rail alternatives and a no-build option in order to identify the most appropriate corridor for a potential passenger rail line between Tucson and Phoenix.

yellow and orange corridor options

The Yellow Alternative would serve East Valley communities and central Pinal County, and could share right of way with Union Pacific Railroad north of Eloy, where appropriate. The Orange Alternative would serve East Valley population centers and share part of its alignment with the planned North-South Freeway Corridor in Pinal County. The two alternatives would run primarily within the I-10 corridor between Eloy and Tucson.

Under the No-Build Alternative, no passenger rail system would be constructed between Tucson and Phoenix. The No-Build Alternative assumes that all proposed highway projects currently funded within the study corridor would be built to provide enhanced capacity for Interstate 10 and the surrounding region.

Along with the alternatives, ADOT has identified general locations for stations along the passenger rail line. The route between Tucson and Phoenix is recommended as a blended service to include an express intercity service that would have few stops between the two metropolitan areas and a local commuter service that would potentially stop at all stations within the corridor. The corridors include system hubs located near downtown Phoenix and downtown Tucson. Both include extensions beyond the system hubs: to the west Phoenix metropolitan area and to Tucson International Airport. However, these extensions are not part of the Draft Tier 1 Environmental Impact Statement, but are compatible with the recommendations. The passenger rail line also proposes to serve Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport and Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport.

By the end of this study, a Final Tier 1 Environmental Impact Statement will be published and one rail corridor or the No-Build Alternative will be selected. Once the public comment period concludes on Oct. 30, the rail study team will compile and review all comments and work with the federal partners to develop a Final Tier 1 Environmental Impact Statement and Record of Decision. This document will contain a preferred alternative and is expected to be complete by the end of this year, along with a Service Development Plan. The Service Development Plan will include infrastructure and operation plans, an implementation plan, demand and revenue forecasts, capital programming, and operation and maintenance costs of a potential passenger rail system.

Additional future environmental work and site-specific studies would be required before a rail system could be constructed. There is currently no construction schedule and there is no funding identified for future rail studies or to build and maintain a rail system. It will be up to the public, stakeholders and policymakers to decide how the project should move forward and how to generate the funding to pay for it.