Sun Link Streetcar debuts - Tucson News Now

Sun Link Streetcar debuts

The Sun Link Streetcar carried passengers for the first time today. (Source: Tucson News Now) The Sun Link Streetcar carried passengers for the first time today. (Source: Tucson News Now)
TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

It's been nearly 30 years from idea to reality.

The Sun Link Streetcar has made its debut and now all that's left is to live up to the hype.

There's little doubt it will be a boon to downtown redevelopment, an economic shot in the arm and an environmentally sound way to get from here to there.

But whether is will be transformational is still a question to be answered.

Tucson joins two dozen other cities which have streetcars or are in the process of developing one.

The cities which have already built a line have seen hundreds of millions of dollars in new development.

Even before it's finished, Tucson has seen $800 million in downtown investment both public and private.

"We built this," said Tucson lawmaker Steve Farley, who was instrumental in getting the issue to the ballot in 2006. "It's created thousands of jobs and a billion dollars in development in the worst recession we've ever had in Arizona history."

Now that the economy is coming back, it's hoped the investment will continue to grow.

But it won't just be downtown.

The Regional Transportation Authority is already considering other routes to connect communities and spur development.

Down Sixth Avenue, to the Airport, maybe down Broadway to El Con mall or to the Tucson Mall.

The RTA says it will enjoy this day and think about where it might go next tomorrow.

Today was a day to dedicate the streetcar and acknowledge the people who were instrumental in making it a reality.

Former Tucson Mayor Bob Walkup who was the cheerleader, who went to Washington to urge the Vice President to approve the Tiger Grant loosening up $63 million and who, as an engineer, has plenty to say about how it was built.

Congressman Raul Grijalva, who as a freshman congressman, has the foresight to include the project in a bill which insured the project as a "shovel ready" project which made it eligible for stimulus money to create jobs and economic opportunity.

Democratic State Lawmaker Steve Farly, who formed the Citizens for Responsible Transportation committee, which endorsed and helped insure passage of Proposition 200 in 2006, which raised the gas tax to help pay for it.  

Besides their desire to insure clean, environmental and economically sound transportation, all believe the $197 million project is just the beginning.

"Extensions are already in planning," says Farley. "There are private investors willing to pay for that so taxpayers don't have to."

"I want everyone to know this is not the end," says Walkup about the project. "This is just the beginning."

"This is a very historic week in Tucson's history," says present Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild.

 The track is 3.9 miles long and links Tucson's Westside to the Eastside. 

Even before its completion, there is nearly $800 million worth of public and private investment along the line and it's expected to grow.

"Some people see this as a transportation mode," says Grijalva. "But it's about connecting neighborhoods."

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