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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Tucson Sun Link construction seeing delays

Jordin+OConnor+%2F+Arizona+Daily+Wildcat%0A%0AStreetcar+construction+makes+its+way+down+University+Boulevard+through+Euclid+Avenue.
Jordin O’Connor / Arizona Daily Wildcat Streetcar construction makes its way down University Boulevard through Euclid Avenue.

Heavy rains are to blame for a two-week delay in the construction process for the Sun Link streetcar, unmarked and old utilities have brought a three-week delay to the project in the downtown area.

While rains throughout the past week have remianed relatively short, each shower slows down the construction process by several days while construction crews wait for the mud to clear, according to Jesse Gutierrez, the project’s construction manager. While Gutierrez said that some business owners along the streetcar route have been “relatively pleased” with the construction process, not everyone feels that way.

“Obviously as a business down here, I’m getting weary,” said Margo Susco, co-owner of Hydra, a clothing store on the corner of Congress Street and Sixth Avenue. “It just seems to go on forever.”

Amy Pike, owner of A Perfect Pantry, believes the University of Arizona, Main Gate Square and Fourth Avenue have been a priority for the city, but the needs of local entrepreneurs in downtown Tucson have been disregarded.

“It was obvious to me that the priority was the students at the university and not the merchants downtown,” Pike said. “That’s just the power of the players. [The] university is powerful.”

Pike also believes the city should help downtown businesses, suggesting that the city waive property taxes during construction. Nobody is advocating for the merchants downtown, she added.

“Most people aren’t making their rent. It’s coming out-of-pocket,” Pike said. “It’s the city’s blatant lack of concern. If it were not for the small entrepreneurs who have come down and opened up retail spaces, restaurants, etcetera, these large developers wouldn’t be as attracted to our downtown.”

Downtown Tucson has seen longer delays on the streetcar due to older utilities that are unmarked and unplanned for. Gutierrez said they had initially told business owners that construction in downtown would last three to five months.

Construction on Congress Street started mid-May, meaning the street should have opened mid-September on the five month mark. Instead, the contractor will be installing rails and pouring concrete through the end of September. Gutierrez said that the city is doing what it can to account for the delays.

“We’re trying to make it up,” Gutierrez said. “We’re trying to get done as fast as possible … so Congress will see the rail next.”

Gutierrez added, paving on Congress Street between Sixth Ave. and Church Ave. will start the first week of October. Construction workers have been working longer shifts to make up for lost time due to the weather.

Susco said most of the construction dealt with underground utilities and felt like it took forever.
Lately, she said she has seen some new work on the sidewalk or the pavement that shows that construction is moving forward and will be done in time for October’s 2nd Saturdays.

“We’re already seeing a big jump in activity,” Susco said. “That second Saturday in October, the fences should be down and we are just hoping that the public’s going to come out and … see what’s going on.”

Business owners also emphasized the need for Tucsonans to support their local businesses. Regular customers helped Susco make it through the construction phase of the project, she said.

“If people in general would start to get off the [Internet] and start to buy local and support their local economy, that would be great,” she added.

Billy Elliott who opened his restaurant, Elliott’s, in May, said he’s excited to see his business thrive once he has an open road in front of it. “We’re excited to see what it’s like when we actually have traffic down here,” Elliott said. “Obviously the delays have been frustrating for all the businesses down here but I’m trying to stay optimistic about the long-term goals.”

Gutierrez said that with longer shifts and weekend work, construction should be back to its original timeline by November.

“A project that spans over a year and a half, you expect for one to have some kind of weather delays,” he said.

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