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Tucson could get federal streetcar help

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Downtown streetcar

Tucson could get federal streetcar help

Funds would extend the rail line from UA to downtown

  • Artist's rendering of Tucson's planned modern streetcar.
    Tucson Dep't of TransportationArtist's rendering of Tucson's planned modern streetcar.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is expected to announce Thursday that Tucson will get federal funds to extend the city's streetcar line.

LaHood will be at the Historic Train Depot at 10 a.m. Thursday, marking the one-year anniversary of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (otherwise known as the "stimulus" bill).

Cynthia Sewell reports in the Idaho Statesman that the announcement could mean that Tucson's streetcar program will get a slice of $1.5 billion in federal stimulus transportation grants. Boise also requested funding for a downtown streetcar project, but Sewell writes that "word on the street is Boise’s streetcar request is a long shot."

The Arizona Daily Star agreed, reporting Tuesday that the city expected to hear a ruling on its application for funds that would help connect the University of Arizona and downtown with a streetcar line.

“The four-mile modern streetcar would run from near the University Medical Center through downtown to the west side of the Santa Cruz River. The Regional Transportation Plan and tax approved by voters in 2006 included $88 million for it, with another $75 million to come from federal grants. Anything left after construction and equipment is paid for can be used to pay operating costs in the early years.

Tucson Mayor Bob Walkup, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and Rep. Raúl Grijalva are expected to appear with LaHood.

“The major announcement is unknown,” said Ann Charles, an assistant to City Council Member Steve Kozachik. “We know there will be an announcement but have no clue of what magnitude it will be.”

The Center for Public Integrity reports that the federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant program received 1,380 applications, totaling $56.5 billion in requests. The program had $1.5 billion to award throughout the country. Congress has appropriated a further $600 million for the TIGER program.

The federal government has also announced another round of public transportation grants. $280 million will be awarded for streetcar and bus projects nationwide as part of the Livability Initiative.

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