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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Streetcar clears last funding hurdle

Streetcar clears last funding hurdle

The city of Tucson has been granted $63 million in federal stimulus money to begin construction on the Modern Streetcar Project.  

The four-mile streetcar will connect the UA to Fourth Avenue, downtown and the redevelopment area west of downtown. The project is expected to be completed by September 2012. Developers hope it will generate economic and employment growth for the city, improve transit service and ease parking constraints.

David Heineking, the director of Parking and Transportation Services and a coordinator for the Modern Streetcar Project in relation to the UA, said he believes the project will have an “”extremely positive effect”” by allowing students to get around on campus as well as helping the UA expand outside of “”where we are now.””

Once the streetcar is up and running, private developers can build places for university students to live instead of an additional residence hall on campus in future years, according to Heineking.

Heineking also said the university will not lose money on parking, noting that “”people will continue to drive to campus if they already do now.””

Pima County voters approved the Modern Streetcar Project in 2006 as part of the $2.1 billion Regional Transportation Authority plan funded by a half-cent sales tax and other local and state funds, according to the Pima Association of Governments.

The city of Tucson estimates the project will cost $196,822,000.

Before the new Congress was seated in early January, the Republican U.S. House attempted to take away stimulus funds not being used for critical projects, such as the grant Tucson received for the Modern Streetcar Project.

Gautam Gowrisankaran, an associate professor of economics, said he would have voted “”Yes”” on the plan supporting the Modern Streetcar.

“”This country could use more investment in infrastructure,”” he said. “”It’s good for Tucson, the people of Tucson, and I think it’s good to encourage public transit.”” Gowrisankaran explained that investing in something like the streetcar is “”optimal for growth”” and that the U.S. is falling behind countries like China in infrastructure development.

The Regional Transportation Authority is helping aid businesses that could be financially impacted during construction of the Modern Streetcar through the Regional Transportation Authority MainStreet Business Assistance Program.  

Britton Dornquast, manager for the Regional Transportation Authority MainStreet Business Assistance Program, said the most important part of preparing these businesses is to get them away from “”street rumors”” and to “”keep them out of a crisis mode mentality.””

“”The last thing we want is a panic based upon bad or misinformation, which will flow out to the customers,”” he said. “”We want the businesses to focus on what they do have control over and maintain a positive attitude internally.””

Dornquast said that in the long run the Modern Streetcar will be good for businesses, and in the short run it will be a construction project like any other with certain challenges and concerns.

Natalie Lucas, the administrative director for Students for Sustainability, Honors Student Council president and a political science and environmental science sophomore, believes the streetcar is a “”good environmental initiative if people will adjust (transportation) habits for sustainability.””

Although she expressed concern that “”changing lifestyles”” is “”very, very hard for people”” when it comes to switching personal car use to public transportation, she is “”interested to see where it (the streetcar) takes Tucson.””

“”I don’t see a problem with the federal government giving Tucson funds to help innovation,”” she said. “”But I feel like it’s better for federal government to give states money for states to apply it where they feel it could be best used.””

Mike Beckwith, a sophomore majoring in English, used to use the Sun Tran to get to the UA and to his job at Dirtbag’s before getting a car last month. He is against the idea of the Modern Streetcar except in safety uses, like an alternative to drunk driving.

“”It’s trivial to spend on a new form of public transportation when we have a very reliable and highly rated public transportation system in the Sun Tran,”” he said.

Assuming the Modern Streetcar will run 24 hours a day, seven days a week, while the Sun Tran stops running at midnight, it could potentially be used as a “”designated driving”” service.

“”If kids are paying to use public transportation, I don’t care if they are drunk and using it as a ride home,”” Beckwith said. “”I much rather them do that then put others in danger.””

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