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Sneak a peek at Sun Link streetcar
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Sneak a peek at Sun Link streetcar

  • A crowd packed into one of Tucson's new streetcars for a sneak peek at the system on Monday morning.
    Dylan Smith/TucsonSentinel.comA crowd packed into one of Tucson's new streetcars for a sneak peek at the system on Monday morning.
  • Streetcar operator Tom Epperson checks traffic before following the tracks onto East Congress Street, just before the 4th Avenue underpass.
    Dylan Smith/TucsonSentinel.comStreetcar operator Tom Epperson checks traffic before following the tracks onto East Congress Street, just before the 4th Avenue underpass.
  • Dylan Smith/TucsonSentinel.com
  • RTA head Farhad Moghimi, former mayor Bob Walkup and Councilwoman Regina Romero were along for the ride.
    Dylan Smith/TucsonSentinel.comRTA head Farhad Moghimi, former mayor Bob Walkup and Councilwoman Regina Romero were along for the ride.
  • U.S. Rep. Grijalva had the opportunity to ride up front with the streetcar operator.
    Dylan Smith/TucsonSentinel.comU.S. Rep. Grijalva had the opportunity to ride up front with the streetcar operator.
  • Mayor Rothschild and U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (Portland, Ore.)
    Dylan Smith/TucsonSentinel.comMayor Rothschild and U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (Portland, Ore.)
  • Rothschild, Barber and Grijalva delivered remarks before the ride-along.
    Dylan Smith/TucsonSentinel.comRothschild, Barber and Grijalva delivered remarks before the ride-along.
  • Dylan Smith/TucsonSentinel.com
  • Blumenauer talked about the streetcar project.
    Dylan Smith/TucsonSentinel.comBlumenauer talked about the streetcar project.
  • Andrew Greenhill, assistant to City Manager Richard Miranda; Miranda, Farhad Moghimi of the RTA; Maricela Solis De Kester, district director for U.S. Rep. Ron Barber; County Supervisor Richard Elias; and state Sen. Steve Farley listen to the congressmen speak.
    Dylan Smith/TucsonSentinel.comAndrew Greenhill, assistant to City Manager Richard Miranda; Miranda, Farhad Moghimi of the RTA; Maricela Solis De Kester, district director for U.S. Rep. Ron Barber; County Supervisor Richard Elias; and state Sen. Steve Farley listen to the congressmen speak.
  • Dylan Smith/TucsonSentinel.com
  • Dylan Smith/TucsonSentinel.com
  • Dylan Smith/TucsonSentinel.com

Politicians and longtime backers of the new Tucson streetcar system got a chance to ride Sun Link on Monday morning. The 3.9-mile, $197 million streetcar line will open to the public Friday, with free rides over the first weekend.

Along for the ride, which followed short speeches by Mayor Jonathan Rothschild, U.S. Reps. Ron Barber, Raul Grijalva and the congressman from Portland, Ore., Earl Blumenauer, who represents the district in which the streetcars were manufactured, were members of the City Council and Legislature.

Among them were a visibly giddy state Sen. Steve Farley, who pushed for a light rail line across Tucson that was voted down at the polls before setting his sights on the streetcar as part of the 2006 Regional Transportation Authority that was passed by voters. Former mayor Bob Walkup, who was a big backer of the Rio Nuevo redevelopment plan but not an initial proponent of the streetcar, was also all smiles as he rode along.

A packed articulated streetcar moved the politicians and a flock of reporters from the Sun Link headquarters just north of Downtown, to the West Side stop where a plaque marking Grijalva's support for the streetcar was unveiled.

Speaking before the short trip across Downtown, Rothschild said the streetcar is "the largest construction project ever undertaken in the city of Tucson."

Grijalva told a crowd gathered at the Sun Link Operations Facility of his memories of a thriving city center during his youth, and said it was welcome "to see that come back up again," calling the streetcar "environmentally critical."

'The naysayers have been proven wrong," Barber said, noting that the streetcar "has created over 1,000 permanent jobs" and more than $800 million in investment in the area.

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