City backs efforts to keep Amtrak, has plans for new station

KSWT Exclusive Tunnel To The Tracks

Yuma, AZ - In 1877 the first passenger train entered Arizona right here in Yuma. Now, thousands still depend on passenger travel in Yuma despite a much-needed upgrade, however that could all go away with Amtrak threatening to take away the two main routes through the city of Yuma.

"It seems like the long-range business plan for Amtrak is to eliminate the long-range Sunset Limited and Texas Eagle,” Said Gary Knight, Deputy Mayor in the City of Yuma. “They [Amtrak] would eliminate those routes because they don't view them as profitable.

Those are the two main routes that have come through Yuma for years. Each month nearly 4,500 passengers in Yuma use it to get to Los Angeles, Tucson, and even as far as New Orleans, according to All Abroad Arizona, a grassroots group fighting to keep Amtrak running throughout the nation.

"Right now it is just tri-weekly if we could get daily service, they have shown where that will be profitable for Amtrak because of the increase in ridership,” Knight said.

All Aboard Arizona has gathered 11 signatures from Senators including Arizona Senator Kirsten Sinema, in efforts to keep the long-range trains that serve dozens of states including Arizona.

However the concern locally is more than just the routes, riders, like Karen King, wants something done about the lack of resources at the station.

A station she describes as a “Barren Oasis.”   

"Sometimes the trains are late and you have to wait here extra hours so it would be nice if they had some facilities here, some vending machines maybe,” said Karen King an Amtrak rider for nearly 10 years.

Others have expressed the same concern. “There is only one place around here to go to the bathroom or get something to eat or drink and that is like a half mile away,” said Jonathan Fernandez an Amtrak rider for 5 years.

The City of Yuma has acknowledged the lack of resources but needs funding in order to make the necessary changes, according to Gary Knight.

"We have applied now 3 years running and this will be the 4th year for a federal build grant so we can remodel that and turn it into a multimodal transportation center”, he said.

The plan, if the grant is given, includes remodeling the Hotel Del Sol building that was closed down in the ’70s. There it would host Amtrak passengers, taxis, YCAT and shuttles to the airport.

If the build grant is approved it could be operating in a couple of years, according to Knight.

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