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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Streetcar project causes closures


The Tucson Modern Streetcar Project began its first phase of construction on campus Monday along First and Second streets. Construction on campus will continue throughout the semester and is projected to be completed before the fall 2012 semester.

The Tucson Modern Streetcar project was approved in a May 2006 ballot by Pima County voters. The 3.9-mile track will connect the UA, Fourth Avenue and downtown Tucson. The project, costing almost $200 million, is expected to be up and running by late 2013 after 475 days of construction and several months of testing.

Construction will be done in two phases, one starting in April and the second in November.

Construction on Second Street, Park Avenue between Second Street and University Boulevard and on Fourth Avenue will begin this month in block segments as utilities are protected and replaced along the track and overhead conductor systems are removed. Instead of entirely closing Second Street, these segments will be closed one at a time as needed to avoid creating traffic congestion.

“We’re taking a conservative approach to protect the tunnels so that they don’t deteriorate over time and cause problems for the U of A in the future,” said Jesse Gutierrez, streetcar construction manager.

Once utility tunnels are protected, around midsummer, Second Street will be closed entirely as the tracks for the electric car are laid out. The city of Tucson Construction Administration team and Old Pueblo Trackworks worked together to “strategically” plan ideal construction dates and sections keeping in mind the needs of students and the general public, according to Gutierrez.

“We’re not doing that (closing Second Street entirely) as a courtesy to the U of A students and the traveling public. We’re not doing it until we absolutely have to,” Gutierrez said. “There is no better time to get that roadway done than during the summer sessions for U of A students.”

The majority of construction on campus, which will run from University Boulevard and Fourth Avenue to the UA School of Medicine on Helen Street, is expected to be done in the summer with Second Street completed by the fall 2012 move-in dates.

UA Parking and Transportation Services is working closely with the city, meeting weekly for construction updates. They have provided detailed maps on their website showing what segments of Second Street and Park Avenue will be closed on what specific dates.

“We’ve had a pretty large-scale effort out to inform people on what’s upcoming,” said Michael Graham, public information officer with the Department of Transportation.

Nearly $48 million has been spent on the project so far. The streetcar is expected to increase property values and create jobs during construction and in the long run.

“I hope that … it actually is something that generates revenue as opposed to continually sinks it,” said Chris Gonzales, a graduate student in the UA medicine program.

The end result will be an environmentally friendly electric streetcar that will run from 6 a.m. to 2 a.m., making 17 stops every 10 minutes during the day and every 20 minutes in the evening. The project is linked to Sun Tran and will have the same cost as the city’s public transportation. Seven vehicles will be running along the tracks, each one with a 180-passenger capacity.

“Obviously getting under construction and closing roadways … is an inconvenience,” Gutierrez said. “Eventually they know that they’ll have a streetcar … that they can ride from point A to point B in a fast, efficient and cost-effective way.”

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