Streetcar funding on track for Thursday - Tucson News Now

Streetcar funding on track for Thursday

By Bud Foster - email 

It's not often the U.S. Transportation Secretary visits Tucson.

So his visit Thursday morning is being viewed as a big deal.

The timing couldn't be more conspicuous.

For nearly four years, Tucson has been trying to get the federal government to commit to funding the downtown streetcar, seen as the key domino in downtown redevelopment.

Voters gave the thumbs up when they easily passed a 1/2 cent sales tax in 2006 to fund the streetcar, among other things.

The streetcar will cost $150 to $160 million with half of it paid for by the tax. The city had to find the other half somewhere else.

Well, it appears to be found.

"He's not coming to town to announce a new bus stop," a jovial Democratic Congressman Raul Grijalva told News 13.

It's expected U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood will announced Tucson has been awarded a TIGGER grant (pronounced "tiger") which could range from $30 to $80 million for the modern streetcar.

It will run 4 1/2 miles from Helen and Campbell on the East to I-10 and Congress on the West.

It will run through the U of A campus, through downtown to the West side of the freeway.

If the city gets $30 million, it can at least get the project started and hope to find the rest of the funding later.

Some believe it can be finished with $50 million in federal help.

$80 million gets the job done.

But getting it on track is the first step.

City leaders nor Congressman Grijalva will say exactly how much is coming because they 1) don't know or 2) don't want to upstage President Obama, who is scheduled to announce the grants on Wednesday. They will be given to several cities including Kansas City and Los Angeles.

"I'm optimistic but how much, I can't say," says Grijalva.

U of A President Robert Shelton told News 13 back in December, the university would like to move some of its resources downtown but the key is the modern streetcar.

That key now appears to be in place but no one will say for sure for fear of not getting what they hoped for.

As one city leader says "we are under a veil of secrecy for the time being" but we're preparing our press releases.

Sort of like, "we don't want to jinx it," he says.

A study on the viability of a major convention hotel downtown says the modern streetcar is a key component.

And if other cities are any indication, a commerce corridor will develop along the route.


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