Thursday, January 31, 2013

Tucson's Streetcar Project

“There’s always that perception that the project is never going to happen. A lot of people say, ‘Show me. I don’t believe it.’ They don’t believe it until they see streets torn up.”

But the "flying dirt and emerging orange cones in March (of 2012)" signalled the reality of official start of construction noted by Carlos de Leon, the Regional Transportation Authority’s (RTA) director of transit services. The RTA co-manages the streetcar project with the city of Tucson.

This project funds the implementation of a modern streetcar system. The 3.9-mile route extends from the Mercado District to the University of Arizona and travels through downtown Tucson and along 4th Avenue.

As I walked along Congress Street, I saw stages of the work being done along this main artery of the city.

In the half hour or so that I spent along the three-block span, I saw different groups working on different types of projects. It was similar to listening to different musicians in an orchestra produce an enjoyable work of art.

In her article* on the streetcar project, Johanna Willett, a University of Arizona journalism student, made the following observations about the construction process:

“'The biggest challenge is not the project, but the public perception of the project,” said Britton Dornquast, the program manager for MainStreet Business Assistance. “A lot of people avoid an area when they see cones.'

"'For businesses along the streetcar route, imminent construction will bring a headache that can threaten to overshadow the excitement of increased traffic.'

“'We’re going to try and make construction fun rather than an obstacle,” said John Sedwick the executive director of the Fourth Avenue Merchants Association. “We’re going to draw people down here with contests and take pictures of the construction as it happens.'”

Although this phase of the streetcar project is not yet completed, future plans reach as far as 2040.


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