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Posted Apr 12, 2012, 1:54 pm
Construction of Tucson's Modern Streetcar is formally underway following a ground-breaking ceremony at the University of Arizona's BIO5 research center Thursday morning.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood attended the ceremony as an opportunity to call on his fellow Republicans in the House to pass the transportation budget so that "Americans can get back to work."
LaHood also called for the community to consider including former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords name in the project, calling her an instrumental person in getting the project started.
Other VIPs including Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild, Rep. Raúl Grijalva, D-Ariz., Rep. Ed Pastor, D-Ariz., and Oro Valley Mayor Satish Hiremath were on hand to praise the $196 million project's potential for job creation and regional sustainable growth.
The streetcar, named Sun Link, is part of the $2.1 billion Regional Transit Authority plan, a measure passed in 2006 to expand transportation infrastructure in the Tucson metropolitan area.
According to the project's website, the RTA is contributing $88 million of the program's cost, with private contributions amounting to some $18 million.
The remainder of the construction costs are from federal funds, including a $63 million TIGER grant. The RTA has also applied for a $26 million TIGER II grant.
LaHood said that the Tucson grant is the largest yet made by TIGER.
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Rothschild called on the crowd of 200 people to ensure that the program stays on track.
"We need to stick to the plan, and we need to stay current," he said.
The project will serve an estimated 100,000 people, according to the RTA, in the university/Downtown corridor over a 3.9 mile section of track running from the BIO5 Institute near North Campbell Avenue and East Speedway Boulevard and just west of East Congress Street and Interstate 10.
Major construction on the project is underway and the street car is scheduled to carry passengers by late 2013.