The maze that is the intersection of Congress Street at Fourth Avenue will be opened to traffic in March – with the addition of new tracks to extend the Old Pueblo Trolley into the downtown area.
New tracks for the historic trolley will run from the current terminus on Fourth Avenue between Eighth and Ninth streets, through a widened, reconstructed Fourth Avenue underpass, and west on Congress Street, south on Fifth Avenue.
They will turn east on Broadway and north to reconnect at Fourth Avenue south of the underpass for the return trip to the University of Arizona Park Avenue gate.
The setting of the tracks in concrete and repaving of Congress and Fourth south of the underpass with asphalt should be completed in early March, Mike Skilsky, project engineer for the Tucson Transportation Department, said Tuesday.
“We’ve been working six 10s,” Skilsky said, referring to the six 10-hour days a week for crews of the contractors, a joint effort by Sundt Construction Co. of Tucson and Stacy and Witbeck Inc. of Oakland, Calif.
The vintage, restored trolley cars of the all-volunteer Old Pueblo Trolley won’t roll on the new tracks until the Fourth Avenue underpass reconstruction project is completed in spring 2009, Skilsky said.
Getting them laid now averts having to excavate the improved downtown streets later on.
Bringing the trolley into the downtown area has been a mission for the Old Pueblo Trolley volunteers. They started planning the trolley circuit between UA and downtown 25 years ago, Dick Guthrie, president and CEO of the organization, said Tuesday.
“This is really a milestone,” he said.
The extension into downtown is a separate project from the modern streetcar approved by voters in the Regional Transportation Authority election in May 2006.
Both will share the same tracks on Congress, and possibly other segments of the routes, as well, Shellie Ginn, TDOT urban corridor project manager, said Tuesday.
The streetcar won’t be operational until at least 2011.
Funding will be provided by the RTA from the half-cent sales tax approved by voters in 2006, and, hopefully, from federal transit funding the city is seeking.
When completed, the streetcar will run between the University Medical Center area on Campbell Avenue, west through the UA campus on Second Street, south on Park Avenue, west on University Boulevard, south on Fourth Avenue through the new underpass. It will then head west on Congress through downtown, and loop back from Rio Nuevo downtown rejuvenation projects near the Santa Cruz River.
Design work on the streetcar project is in its early stages, Ginn said.
The Fourth Avenue underpass project will double its width for added motor vehicle capacity and safety, and include bicycle and pedestrian walkways in addition to the trolley tracks.