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Aug 22, 2014 1:56 AM by Sam Salzwedel

Fourth Avenue closed to cars to help streetcar

TUCSON - Cars were not allowed to go through the underpass from 4th Avenue to Downtown Thursday night.

The city is trying to fix the gridlock that is delaying the streetcar in traffic. The biggest problems start around 11 p.m, according to Carlos de Leon, the city's Deputy Transportation Director.

"This is a good bad thing that happened," he said. "It's good that we have this activity in Downtown and Fourth Avenue. The negative consequence of that is additional traffic."

Transportation department workers tried to fix the traffic signal timing last weekend, but it was not enough.

This weekend, on Thursday, Friday and Saturday night, the underpass is restricted from 7 p.m. to 2 a.m.

Northbound traffic is not restricted. Bicycles and pedestrians are still allowed to use the underpass in both directions.

"We still haven't figured out yet what's going to happen next weekend," de Leon said. "We're evaluating this weekend, and we'll be meeting again early next week and deciding how to move forward for the following weekend."

The transportation department might consider diverting traffic off Congress Street if the underpass closure does not work.

Tucson City Councilman Steve Kozachik said he has heard from some Fourth Avenue businesses that are worried about traffic problems. He also said residents and businesses should have been part of the decision-making process. He sent an email to the transportation department.

"If the problem is traffic volume, all this does is shift it into surrounding neighborhoods and back up 4th Avenue," Koazachik wrote. "If the problem is traffic flow, you could have addressed that by dedicating the south lane to the streetcar and taking out north side parking along Congress during heavy demand periods."

» There are multiple updates to this story. Please click here to get the latest information.

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