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Jan 9, 2014 7:30 PM

4th Ave. merchants hope to suspend streetcar testing during fair

TUCSON- The Fourth Avenue Merchants Association says it will have to cut more than 70 vendors from its annual spring street fair, if the city doesn't suspend streetcar testing during the event.

"I'm no longer able to invite 71 artists and that's their livelihood," says John Sedwick of the Fourth Avenue Merchants Association. "They're going to lose significant amounts of money and I'm hearing the tears over the phone as we speak."

Sedwick says the city told him months ago that there would be testing going on during the fair, which runs March 21-24. The testing would happen south of 8th Street. Initially Sedwick was okay with the news. He did some re-adjusting in order to allow all vendors to participate.

But then in the Fall, Sedwick found out the Pima County Regional Flood Control District had plans for a drainage construction project, which would close parts of Eighth Street and Third Avenue.

Suzanne Shields of the Pima County Regional Flood Control District told News 4 Tucson over the phone the construction is set to begin in mid-February. Sheilds says the project can't happen during the summer months because that is when reclaimed water use is at its peak.

Sedwick realized the new restrictions would create problems with space for the fair and he'd have to cut vendors. In August, he wrote a letter to the flood district, asking that it remain open to vehicular traffic during the fair.

This week Shields says they decided to grant that request. But Sedwick says at this point it's too late. "I mean the logistics of doing this when the street fair is only two months away is impossible."

Now Sedwick says the only hope to get those 71 vendors back is if the streetcar testing is suspended during the fair. But Andrew Quigley, Tucson's Sunlink co-manager, says it's not so simple. "We have a lot of requirements to operate our vehicles," Quigley says. "We have to operate each of them over 250 miles."

Quigley says the city is now looking at whether or not it can afford to suspend the testing for a few days.

In the meantime, Sedwick is looking at a plan B, in case the city says no. "We're going to lose $50,000 to $60,000 in revenue," Sedwick says. "We're put in a position where we as an organization are looking at what services we may have to cut."

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