Modern streetcar is on track - Tucson News Now

Modern streetcar is on track

By Bud Foster - email

"We're going to provide a modern streetcar to this community by hook or by crook," a smiling Tucson Transportation Director Jim Glock says.

He says that because it's been five years since Tucson started the process to build a modern streetcar. Now, after five years of jumping through federal hoops, the city is in the stretch run.

It received a letter from Leslie Rogers, District Administrator for the Federal Transit Administration which moves the process forward by leaps and bounds.

The letter gives Tucson the "authority to procure vehicles". The city will purchase seven of them at about $2.3 million each.

It says the city can "incur costs" for rails, ties, demolition, commodities and other specialized equipment.

But all is not guaranteed. The letter goes to say it's not a commitment on the part of the government that it will approve future federal funds.

The city undertakes "these activities at its own risk".

Voters approved $75 million for the modern streetcar which it approved the Regional Transportation Authority back in 2006. The $75 million would be matched by federal funds.

"It's a very competitive program, the rigor they put agencies though," says Glock.

Glock says he had to dust off his resume and answer some very hard questions from federal officials. Even the staff at the transportation department went through a rigorous question and answer session before the transit administration gave its approval.

The government now believes the city can "pull it off" and has allowed the city to enter into the final design as an exempt project.

But the construction process must still be approved and that comes next. It could come in January.

"I'm cautiously optimistic that we're going to fare well. It's been a long road getting here to date and you never know," says Glock. "But at the end of the day, we'll get those federal funds."

One developer says, the streetcar is by far the most important project for the city downtown. He too is cautiously optimistic.

He says the city does not have a proven track record downtown and could still fumble things.

But he adds, today's letter is "huge".

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