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Aug 14, 2014 12:41 AM by Sam Salzwedel

Streetcar getting stuck in traffic

TUCSON - Transportation officials are trying to figure out how to keep the streetcar from getting stuck in traffic.

Last week's "Second Saturday" festival attracted more than 15,000 people Downtown, the biggest crowd ever, according to the Downtown Tucson Partnership.

Almost 6,700 riders boarded Sun Link, but the roads were also full of cars. Streetcars were getting held up in gridlock near 4th Avenue and Congress Street.

City of Tucson Deputy Transportation Director, Carlos de Leon, said that is why the city wanted the streetcar running a month before classes start at the University of Arizona.

"We had an opportunity to really see how people would interact with the system, learn some things and make adjustments," de Leon said. "So it's kind of a learning period for us and for our customers."

Transportation officials tried to find solutions in a meeting on Wednesday.

"We have a variety of measures that we have on our list that we'll try one at a time," de Leon said. "And then collect data and see how the response is before we implement everything."

The first step is adjusting the timing of traffic signals around 4th Avenue and Congress Street. De Leon said they might also divert cars away from the area or even have Tucson Police officers conduct traffic.

During the Wednesday evening rush hour, there were no problems at that intersection. So far, more people ride weekends than weekdays.

Josh Proctor is the general manager of Gio Taco, which is on the corner of the worst choke-point.

"We definitely want to make sure there's access to the restaurants and businesses that are Downtown," he said. "But I think that when something is popular, and something is busy, that helps feed that popularity, that business. And I think that the struggles with getting in and out of Downtown are going to be alleviated quickly."

On Saturday, Sun Link was only running 4 of its 8 cars. City officials do not think more cars would solve the problem because traffic was not moving at all through the 4th Avenue underpass.

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