Downtown streetcar gets construction OK
Tucson's downtown modern streetcar project got a final nod from the federal government Thursday.
The city received permission to begin construction, said Tucson's Transportation Department spokesman Michael Graham.
Federal approval was required to spend the $63 million awarded to the project last year.
"Today we have achieved a big victory for both the region's multi-modal transportation system and our region's economy," said Mayor Bob Walkup. "The Modern Streetcar will enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of transportation in Tucson, while adding new strength to our ability to recruit and expand businesses in Southern Arizona."
The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) approved the Tucson Urban Corridor Final Supplemental Environmental Assessment and issued a Finding of No Significant Impact, concluding that the construction and operation of the modern streetcar project would cause no significant environmental effects, Graham said.
The city and the Regional Transportation Authority will ask for bids on four separate parts of the project within the next month, he said.
The federal government awarded the project a $63 million Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant, as part of a nationwide stimulus program of spending on public transportation.
The streetcar project will be a 3.9-mile fixed rail transit system that will connect the Arizona Health Sciences Center, University of Arizona, University Main Gate Square, 4th Avenue Shopping District, Downtown Tucson and the Mercado District development area.
"This is another major milestone toward realizing completion of this important project," said U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva. "The sooner Tucson enjoys twenty-first century public transportation, the sooner we'll see boosts to our economy and quality of life."
"Operation of the modern streetcar will provide a tremendous benefit to the economy, the environment and the quality of life in the Tucson area," said Pia Carusone, chief of staff for U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.