While three out of four Arizonans live in Tucson, Phoenix, or the areas in between - collectively know as the Sun Corridor - right now there are no public-transportation options in this corridor.
Arizona has been one of the fastest growing states in the nation in recent years. With increased population comes increased congestion and increased air pollution caused by cars. Interstate 10 between Tucson and Phoenix is already heavily congested, and it's only projected to get worse.
It's clear that Arizona can no longer rely on pavement alone to solve our transportation problems. We need to look to solutions such as passenger rail connecting Arizona's two largest cities. While this idea has been discussed for decades in Arizona, it's time for our leaders to realize that we can't continue to "kick the can" down the proverbial road and hope that our traffic congestion and air quality issues will solve themselves.
The good news is that recently there has been real progress toward making Arizona passenger rail a reality. Last year, the Arizona Department of Transportation completed Arizona's first State Rail Plan, which includes a plan for implementing intercity passenger rail throughout the state. This year, one of the key steps to implementing intercity rail in Arizona is currently under way as ADOT conducts a study exploring possible routes to connect Tucson and Phoenix with rail.
This study is a critical opportunity for Tucsonans to weigh in and tell ADOT and other state officials how important passenger rail is to our region. It will be possible for Arizona to have better transportation options in the future, but only if enough people speak up and call for passenger rail.
In addition to providing solutions to our traffic congestion and air pollution problems, a rail line connecting Tucson and Phoenix will provide a viable transportation alternative that will help improve the quality of life in Arizona. In the event of a dust storm, or for the times when the I-10 is plagued by accidents or construction, having a passenger train would give Sun Corridor residents another option.
It would also be useful for those times when other means of transportation are simply unavailable, such as when the car is at the mechanic. Imagine the possibilities of greater mobility in the region.
Southern Arizonans could go to Phoenix for a night to attend a Diamondbacks baseball game. Valley residents could visit friends and family in the Tucson area without having the hassle of driving on the congested I-10.
The modern-streetcar system opening soon in Tucson and the successful light rail in Phoenix provide options for further reaching a diverse array of destinations in each city.
Furthermore, Tucson-Phoenix rail can bring tremendous economic benefits to Arizona. Rail can expand the labor pool and market access for businesses, boost local economic development, and ensure that the Tucson-Phoenix area remains attractive to young people, who increasingly prefer alternatives to driving.
Connecting Tucson and Phoenix with rail will bring many benefits to our state, but it will only happen if Arizonans speak up and urge the state to continue moving forward with passenger rail.
Share your opinion
You can give the Arizona Department of Transportation your feedback on a possible Tucson-Phoenix rail route by going to www.azdot.gov/passengerrail by Saturday.
Serena Unrein is the public interest advocate for the Arizona PIRG Education Fund. The Arizona PIRG Education Fund conducts research and education on public interest issues. More information can be found at www.arizonapirgedfund.org