The Sunset Limited, once the longest and oldest rail route in America is still a 3 day a week train running at about two-thirds of its original LA to Orlando, Florida distance now terminates in New Orleans, is the only passenger rail connection between LA and the Coachella Valley. While traffic between the two areas has been on the rise for years and the need for regional or commuter rail is increasing, track capacity according to Union Pacific (UP) is the reason daily service is not a reality.
Over two years ago, Amtrak agreed to turn the Sunset into a daily train with equipment changes in San Antonio allowing part of the train to go to Chicago with the other portion went to New Orleans. UP, after studying the matter determined that nearly $800 million in track upgrades would be need to allow Amtrak to run its trains daily and wanted Amtrak to foot the bill. Many questions have arisen as to why it would cost $800 million to add essentially eight trains to a time slot already being used by the trains on their three day schedule.
Recently, Caltrans has joined the rail upgrade effort by committing to a study for daily rail service where state funded regional or Metrolink type trains would make the daily runs between LA and Indio with an option to continue on to Phoenix, AZ., hopefully to relieve traffic congestion along Interstate 10. The study would include costs for new stations and equipment.
UP also owns the majority of the tracks between Los Angeles and Las Vegas, another corridor greatly in need of restored rail service.