First streetcar vehicle arrives to Tucson after months of delay
Tyler Baker // The Daily Wildcat
The long awaited street car has arived. The streetcar system itself will not be up and running yet but, it is being prepared for the streets of Tucson.
One of eight long-awaited streetcar vehicles arrived in Tucson on Friday after a series of delays that are inconveniencing the UA and local community.
The first vehicle was originally set to arrive in February, and its late arrival has postponed the start of streetcar operation, which was supposed to begin in October. However, the delays have pushed the start of operation to summer 2014, according to Shellie Ginn, program manager of the Tucson Modern Streetcar.
Many business owners who have invested along the streetcar route are relying on the streetcar to draw customers to their businesses, said Steve Kozachik, city councilman for Ward 6.
Entrepreneurs who invested in student housing complexes, restaurants and entertainment-based businesses in downtown Tucson all expected the streetcar to be up and running almost a year before the current projected date, Kozachik said.
Older businesses along the route that were open long before construction started are also counting on the streetcar’s service to bring more customers to the area and make up for the revenue they lost during construction, Kozachik added.
“It’s the small local businesses who have just been killed by this thing, and they’re just trying to dig their way out from the loss of revenue that they’ve suffered over the last year,” Kozachik said. “It’s an ongoing expectation that the businesses have. It’s why they put up with the disruption from the construction.”
Further delays in construction have pushed back the opening date for the Warren Avenue Underpass that connects the main UA campus to the University of Arizona Medical Center. The underpass was projected to open before the fall semester, according to Joe Chase, construction manager for the Tucson Modern Streetcar.
“We had anticipated [Warren Avenue Underpass] to be open by now for sure,” Chase said. “But it was really just issues with the fence … It just took some time to get resolved, and it took some time to get the materials on hand — so the installation of the fence is going to be starting soon.”
The fence to separate the pedestrian path from the tracks was supposed to be installed last summer, but it would have had too large of a gap underneath, Chase said. The construction team is now installing a fence with a smaller gap, and the underpass is expected to be open within the next six to eight weeks.
The construction team is also still working on paving along the route west of Interstate 10 and on the overhead line in downtown Tucson, Chase said.
The City of Tucson has notified the Oregon Iron Works, the company that produces the streetcars, that charges called liquidated damages will be applied due to the delays, according to Kozachik.
The contract between the City of Tucson and Oregon Iron Works states that the city can implement liquidated damages starting at $250 per day, per vehicle, for the first 90 days the vehicle is late. The charges increase after 90 days and again after 240 days, according to the contract. Kozachik said the city will wait to bill the contractor until after all streetcars are delivered.
“It might be self-defeating,” Kozachik said. “If we hurt their cash flow now, it might hurt their production process. So in the spirit of partnership, we’ll work with them, but they know that the meter’s ticking.”
The arrival of the vehicle on Friday was the first in a series of steps in getting the streetcar project ready for service. Still under the ownership of Oregon Iron Works, the first vehicle is being reassembled and undergoing the necessary testing before it can be tested on the tracks, according to Ginn.
Although the vehicles’ projected arrival dates were set for the beginning of August, Ginn said the management team in Tucson wanted to make sure the vehicles was delivered safely, even if that led to further delays.
The management team is now focused on receiving the next seven vehicles and getting them through the testing phase to prepare the streetcar to be ready for service, Ginn said. Vehicle testing on the tracks will begin in the next two weeks, conducted at night to minimize the inconvenience to traffic along the route.
The first streetcar vehicle will be unveiled this Friday at the Operations and Maintenance Facility. The facility will also be dedicated at the event, and a plaque will be presented honoring elected officials involved in the streetcar project.
“[Seeing the streetcar in person] helps bring home that this is happening; it’s real,” Ginn said. “This is one more major milestone in moving us toward actual riding.”
If you go
What: Dedication of streetcar and of Operations and Maintenance Facility
Where: 290 E. Eighth St., Southwest corner of Eighth Street and Fifth Avenue
When: Friday, Sept. 6 at 4 p.m.
Free and open to the public
-Follow Stephanie Casanova @_scasanova_