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Has the sun set set on the Sunset Limited?

Sunset Ltd. Poster Advertising now defunct LA to Miami service.
Sunset Ltd. Poster Advertising now defunct LA to Miami service.
Photo credit Richard Bent

The Sunset Limited, until 2003,  was the only coast- to- coast passenger train in the United States traveling between Los Angeles and Miami, Florida via New Orleans, Louisiana. Since hurricane Katrina damaged tracks along the gulf coast, Amtrak took the opportunity to stop service then truncate its run as a misguided cost control effort, from Los Angeles ending in New Orleans. Even though the tracks were repaired long ago, and despite efforts from four states to reinstate travel to the east coast, Amtrak has done little to move ahead with this service. To add insult to injury, the Sunset only runs 3 days a week and despite promises to run a daily train by October, that too appears headed for a dead end. 

Amtrak's plan was to run the Sunset on a daily basis, combined with the Texas Eagle, to run from Los Angeles to San Antonio, Texas where the train would split with Texas Eagle passengers going to Chicago and New Orleans bound passengers boarding another train to go on to New Orleans. The Sunset would make the trip in one day with no sleeping cars. 

According to various sources, the Union Pacific, over which much of the Sunset route runs, has demanded anywhere from $450-750 Million in track upgrades ostensibly needed to run additional freight trains. Amtrak will either have to come up with the money or appeal to the Surface Transportation Board to gain approval to run its trains. UP claims that daily passenger trains would delay its plans for additional express freight trains. Would these additions be necessary if Amtrak were still going with a 3 day a week schedule? This sounds much like the situation with why there is still no LA to Las Vegas service. What would incentivize UP to get on board with passenger rail and give the traveling public what they desire? Amtrak, the Federal Railroad Administration and the Surface Transportation Board need to work out a system in which Amtrak can have its own tracks or that improvements can be anticipated prior to approving service and funds secured to make needed improvements, especially with the coming of faster trains hopefully.