Streetcar's last weld links east and west - Tucson News Now

Streetcar's last weld links east and west

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

It is an event worthy of a ceremony.

The last weld on the streetcar track linking the University of Arizona, downtown and the West side of Interstate 10.

The route is four miles long but needs seven miles of track going each direction.

35,356 feet, but whose counting.

A clay pot, like a kiln, was fired to heat the track for the final weld. Applause erupted as a foot high flame rose from the pot.

An hour later, everyone was gone except a half dozen workers who were grinding the weld to smooth it out before it's complete and the area paved over.

The end of a 400 day schedule that for motorists and downtown businesses, seemed like a lifetime.

The barricades which have dominated the downtown landscape are slowly being collected and will be moved elsewhere.

The overhead lines are only about 60% complete but there's no hurry since the first streetcar won't be delivered for another month and it will be nearly a year before it begins to haul its first fare paying customers.

But for many, it's the nostalgia.

"For me personally," says Tucson city manager Richard Miranda and native Tucsonan, "and I think a lot of people who've grown up here and remember downtown Tucson when it was the place to go, I see that vitality coming back."

But for others, it's the symbolism.

"It's something I've been saying for years," says Ward 1, Westside council member Regina Romero, "about Westside and Eastside downtown meeting."

Downtown was split in half when the Interstate freeway passed through the city decades ago.

In the half century since, there has been, sometimes bitter accusations that the Eastside of downtown got better treatment than the Westside.

The divide was not, some believe, imaginary.

"I think the streetcar, heals a lot of the sentiment that was factual," Romero says.

The streetcar should bring the same economic opportunities from one end of the line to the other.

"Investments are happening on the Eastside and the Westside," she says.

Romero says she has been getting so many calls from developers that she's approached the city manager to help sort them out.

David Slutes, who does entertainment venues for The Congress Hotel sees the area rising.

"Business has been surprisingly very good as people anticipate it," he says. "I'm very bullish on the future down here."

Copyright 2013 Tucson News Now. All rights reserved.

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