October 11, 2023 - TRA Newswire -
The bad news: If you want to get in and out of Del Rio along the Texas border, you better have a vehicle to drive the two and one half hours to San Antonio or San Angelo as air service to this important community of 36,000 came to an end earlier this year. Blame it on airline pilot and crew shortages but this critical Texas border town, home to the largest U.S. Air Force training base in the country, has no way to travel in and out on a commercial flight.
The good news: You can still catch a train at the Del Rio station which saw a makeover unveiled today. An upbeat group of city and elected officials, Amtrak personnel and interested parties were on hand for the ribbon cutting of a new Amtrak platform that is ADA accessible in this Rio Grande River city. Leading the ceremony was George Holz, AIA and Todd Stennis III from Amtrak Government Affairs. Amtrak has been upgrading accessibility at stations in Texas and around the country on an ongoing basis and the Del Rio upgrade is the latest along the Sunset Limited line.
The bad news: Amtrak's Sunset Limited only stops in Del Rio three times a week, each way, on its cross-country journey from Los Angeles to New Orleans. City officials in other Texas stops like El Paso, Alpine, Sanderson, San Antonio, Houston and Beaumont have been asking when can this tri-weekly service be more meaningful and run on a daily schedule. Smaller Petitions for daily service have been signed by mayors, city councils and county officials to increase passenger rail service. Texas cities with no air service or limited intercity public transportation are held captive by current poor rail schedules.
Congressman Tony Gonzales (R-TX 23) whose district takes in a wide area of West Texas was quoted by Politico about the lack of transportation options. "“I’m frustrated to no end. … If these major companies want rural America to thrive, they need to be investing in rural America, not pulling the rug out from under us.”
Better news: Amtrak and the Federal Railroad Administration has daily service along the Sunset route on its radar. If federal funding can be made available through the Infrastructure Law passed by Congress in 2021, daily service could become a reality. Rounds of passenger rail grants are expected to be announced later this year and through 2024.
Until then, Del Rio and other Texas towns where air service has been cut back or eliminated will have to patiently wait for the three days a week when a train stops in their city.
Photo credit: Marc Magliari