Jul 25, 2013 4:08 PM by Samantha Ptashkin
TUCSON - A historical day for downtown Tucson Thursday as crews laid down the final rail for the streetcar project.
City leaders and Tucsonans gathered at the corner of Congress and North Fifth Avenue to catch the momentous occasion. It comes after more than 400 days of construction, which created several disruptions for downtown traffic and businesses.
"I never thought it would come at all, says Pedestrian Demetria Spina. "I thought it was going to be a lost cause."
"Can I believe it? No! Am I happy? Yes!" says John Flanagan, who owns "Flanagan's Celtic Corner" at 222 East Congress Street.
Flanagan says his business, like so many others in the area, took a hit from all the construction. "It was crazy," Flanagan says. "Unfortunately sometimes it was really busy and other times there wasn't much going on and the construction frightened customers away."
Now that the last rail is in, there will be relief from all the lane closures and detours. Flanagan hopes that brings more visitors downtown.
But not so fast.
Streetcar Construction Manager Joe Chase says there is still work to be done.
Crews need to install the overhead power system, plus add landscaping and artwork to streetcar stops. "They also have to complete the access ramps, sidewalks and signals," Chase says.
United Streetcar, a subsidiary of Oregon Iron Works, is the streetcar manufacturer. Currently all eight cars are in a state of production, with the first car set to arrive in Tucson at the end of August. Once the first vehicle arrives there will be a variety of tests performed on it to ensure it's safe for passengers.
The second car is set to arrive in September. The third car is set to arrive in August.
Chase says actual service won't start until next summer. "It's definitely going to happen," Chase says. We just thank everyone for their patience, from the businesses, to prospective riders of the streetcar," Chase says.
It's a promise Tucsonans hope the city will keep. "I'm looking forward to taking my two children on it and having another mode of transportation," Spina says. "It's nice to have something other than the buses to ride."