Oct 21, 2012 12:01 AM by Sam Salzwedel

Businesses survive streetcar construction

TUCSON - Another stretch of local businesses has survived modern streetcar construction.

Saturday, one block of Fourth Avenue opened, just south of 6th Street.

Construction is not done, but the fences came down, allowing cars to drive and park on the street.

At the Food Conspiracy Co-op, business has been pretty slow since construction started.

Steven Wind admitted it kept him from shopping in the area.

"I tended to come here much less than before," he said.

This seemingly minor change has made a big difference for businesses in the area.

"Just knowing you can park right in front of somebody's business," Co-op manager Steven Spencer said, "I think it goes a long way to encouraging people to want to shop there."

Construction crews are still building tracks in other places. Some business owners think perception is turning customers away, rather than the actual inconvenience.

"I just had to park more creatively," local shopper Beverly Seckinger said, "walk a little farther."

The streetcar is supposed to make Downtown and Fourth Avenue more accessible.

"I think it's going to be great," Spencer said. "We'll certainly see a huge lift in our sales."

Some loyal Fourth Avenue shoppers are not sure about the project's benefits,

"I'm kind of a streetcar skeptic," Wind said. "I'm waiting to see if people really ride it, and who's going to ride it, and how many people ride it."

Everybody hopes the construction will be worth the wait.

"We shall see," Seckinger said. "It would be great if it would bring more people to this corridor."

Fourth Avenue should be completely finished just before the Winter Street Fair in December.

The streetcar project was built in to the voter-approved Regional Transportation Authority.

The 3.9 mile route will cost almost $196.8 million, according to the streetcar website.

The cars will go from The University of Arizona Medical Center to west of downtown, with 18 stops along the way.


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