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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Streetcar’s funding complete

Ernie Somoza / Arizona Daily Wildcat

The city of Tucson is awarded a federal TIGER grant in the amount of $63 million. The money matches funds already secured for a streetcar that will connect UA to downtown.
Ernie Somoza
Ernie Somoza / Arizona Daily Wildcat The city of Tucson is awarded a federal TIGER grant in the amount of $63 million. The money matches funds already secured for a streetcar that will connect UA to downtown.

The final piece of the puzzle for a streetcar linking the UA campus to downtown Tucson fell into place Thursday when Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced $63 million in federal stimulus money to help fund the project.

The total cost of the project is $177.5 million, with $88 million coming from the Regional Transportation Authority.

“”This $63 million will build four miles of streetcars service, connecting Tucson’s major activities center, including health centers, the state university’s main campus, several city entertainment sites and the planned development and more,”” LaHood said at a press conference. “”This project will make it easier for city residents who don’t own a car to commute to work and reach health clinics and other vital services.””

Construction is set to begin this summer and is expected to be complete by summer 2012. When completed, the streetcar will run from downtown to University Medical Center, cutting though campus on University Boulevard and Second Street.

“”The rail is key to (the university’s) strategic growth strategy,”” Tucson Mayor Bob Walkup said. “”The board of regents wants all universities to put together a growth strategy of the future. But the problem with the UA is it’s bumping in into very old neighborhoods that are surrounding it.””

Because the campus’ growth is restricted, UA President Robert Shelton is excited about the streetcar’s potential. 

“”The possibilities are almost unlimited and what we need to do is proceed systematically and see what makes sense for the city and what makes sense for the university,”” Shelton said.

This may include moving classes and student housing to the downtown area.

“”It allows us to relieve some of the pressure in the local neighborhoods for housing,”” Shelton said. “”You would have housing that is in the middle of a vibrant arts scene, a vibrant entertainment scene, a vibrant restaurant scene. That will be attractive not only to undergrad students but to graduate students and young professionals that are coming to the University of Arizona and launching their careers.””

Janice Cervelli, dean of the College of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, has already been looking at the possibility of moving classes downtown.

“”We’ve been worrying about the lost opportunity for downtown and for the university,”” Walkup said. “”Cleary Phoenix and ASU — they figured it out. So it was time for us to say, ‘Why don’t we put something downtown?’ Because with a university presence, its energy, its people … it creates economic development.””

The streetcar was part of the Regional Transportation Authority initiative passed by voters in 2006 that called for the expanding of roads and SunTran bus service over the next 20 years at a cost of $2.1 billion.

LaHood’s announcement for Tucson was just one of the 51 grants that the Department of Transportation announced, which totaled  $1.5 billion in stimulus money. 

LaHood, who has been traveling the country as the White House celebrates the one-year anniversary of President Obama’s signing of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act said the Department of Transportation has funded 12,500 transportation and construction projects nationwide while making a serious down payment on rebuilding the nation’s aging highways, bridges, railroads, airports and seaports.

“”These projects will help us meet 21st century challenges to make our communities more livable, making our business more competitive while improving the environment and enhancing safety,”” LaHood said. 

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