Streetcar project kicks off
The modern streetcar project shifted into high gear Thursday, as hundreds of people turned out for its kickoff celebration.
Mayor Jonathan Rothschild welcomed attendees and introduced U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, Arizona Rep. Raúl Grijalva, Arizona Rep. Ed Pastor, Oro Valley’s Mayor Satish Hiremath and UA President Eugene Sander.
Rothschild said the streetcar, named Sun Link, will benefit the city by connecting businesses and the UA to a “downtown that is finally coming into its own” and creating jobs.
“This is not only about a streetcar system,” LaHood said. “This is about the jobs that will be provided that would not have been provided if it hadn’t been for the vision of so many in this community.”
Gordon Bates / Arizona Daily Wildcat Federal and local transportation officials mark the formal beginning of Tucson's Sun Link public transportation project outside of BIO5, north of Speedway Boulevard on Thurs, April 12. Sun Link, whose name was released on Thursday, will connect some of the busiest parts of Tucson's urban areas.
LaHood thanked state leaders, community members and construction workers for their help and support of the project. He emphasized the desire from Washington, D.C., to get people to work, get them out of their cars and counting on public transportation.
“Change is never easy, but we need to stay with the time and stay current,” Rothschild said. “That is really the significance for us.”
LaHood talked about former Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ help in initiating the project. He said Giffords called him more than once asking for a TIGER Grant to fund a streetcar for Tucson. TIGER Grants are provided by the U.S. Department of Transportation to “fund projects that have a significant impact on the nation, a region or a metropolitan area,” according to the department’s website.
“I will never forget the big hug she gave me two years ago when we were downtown making the announcement of the largest street car transit grant that we have given anywhere in the country, right here in Tucson,” LaHood added.
LaHood suggested that Giffords’ name be included along with Sun Link for the project in recognition of her instrumental role. His suggestion was met with a round of applause.
Sander said the modern streetcar will have a direct positive impact on the UA by connecting the downtown and main campuses.
“The availability of modern, clean, sustainable transportation that will impact 50,000 students, including not only our students but Pima Community College students, will make the expansion into the downtown area of Tucson a reality,” he said.
Audience members donned hard hats and listened to a mariachi band while the speakers and a few distinguished guests shoveled dirt, breaking ground on the construction stage.
“I think this is a wonderful project and it will enhance the community of Tucson for years to come,” said Bruce Vaughan, director of UA Real Estate Administration. “I think it will help economically, with transportation, moving people around, and I think it will help redevelop downtown Tucson.”