Feds finalize new plan for Amtrak’s future long-distance trains through Utah

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The fourth and final round of meetings of the Federal Railroad Administration‘s Amtrak Daily Long-Distance Service Study took place over the past two weeks, and we now have more details about passenger rail in Utah.

The FRA is evaluating the potential restoration of daily long-distance intercity passenger rail service and the potential for new Amtrak long-distance routes as part of the study.

Amtrak’s existing long-distance network is comprised of 15 routes, including the California Zephyr, which crosses Utah on its 2,438-mile journey between Chicago and San Francisco.

A prior Building Salt Lake article announced the plan to add an additional 15 long-distance passenger rail routes, which are intended to fill gaps within Amtrak’s existing system and bring passenger rail to all of the 48-contiguous states.

Drag the slider left or right to see a before and after comparison of Amtrak’s Existing Network and the additional routes included in the Proposed Network of Preferred Routes.

We now have more details regarding the proposed Los Angeles to Denver and Seattle to Denver routes, both of which would serve Ogden, Salt Lake City and Provo along with other stations in Utah.

The Los Angeles to Denver route would travel the 1,423 miles in approximately 33 hours. The eastbound train would leave Los Angeles every day at midday and would arrive in Denver one day later in the late evening. Night would occur between Las Vegas and Provo. The train would pass through Provo, Salt Lake City and Ogden each morning of the second day.

The westbound train would leave Denver every day in the early morning and would arrive in Los Angeles one day later in the early afternoon. The train would pass through Ogden, Salt Lake City and Provo each evening of the first day. Night would occur between Provo and Las Vegas. The slides above give further details and include more information on costs and benefits.

While traveling with Amtrak between Los Angeles and Denver is currently possible by riding the Coast Starlight and the California Zephyr, it requires an overnight layover in Emeryville, California. This proposed Los Angeles to Denver route would cut the travel time by more than 24 hours.

The Seattle to Denver route would travel the 1,647 miles in approximately 40 hours. The eastbound train would leave Seattle every day in the early morning and would arrive in Denver one day later in the late evening. Night would occur between Boise and Ogden. The train would pass through Ogden, Salt Lake City and Provo each morning of the second day.

The westbound train would leave Denver every day in the late evening and would arrive in Seattle two days later at midday. The first night would occur between Denver and Green River. The train would pass through Provo, Salt Lake City and Ogden each day during the middle of the second day. The second night would occur between Boise and Portland. The slides above give further details and include more information on costs and benefits.

While traveling with Amtrak between Seattle and Denver is currently possible by riding the Coast Starlight and the California Zephyr, it requires a layover in Sacramento, California. This proposed Seattle to Denver route would cut the travel time by 18 hours.

While the addition of these new routes would greatly shorten travel times between Los Angeles and Denver and between Seattle and Denver and also connect to the Wasatch Front, the routes will also restore passenger rail service to rural communities along corridors that have not had service since the Desert Wind and Pioneer routes were discontinued in 1997.

The Utah Rail Passengers Association has been grateful for the opportunity to represent Utah as a study participant in both the northwest and southwest working groups. All 197 presentation slides are available below.

Now that the study has concluded, the real work begins. In order to make these plans a reality and realize the benefits of adding an additional 15 long-distance routes (including the two that would serve Utah), we need to make it known to our elected officials that expanding passenger rail is something that we want. It is imperative that we reach out to the members of Utah’s congressional delegation and keep the pressure on them.

Email Mike Christensen

Mike Christensen is a long-time transit expert and executive director of the Utah Rail Passengers Association. He also serves on the Salt Lake City Planning Commission.

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Posted by Mike Christensen

Mike Christensen recently graduated from the University of Utah with a Master of City and Metropolitan Planning, is employed as the Executive Director of the Utah Rail Passengers Association, and serves on the Board of Directors of the national Rail Passengers Association.