Congress Street Should Reopen in Mid-October
By Teya Vitu
Congress Street is expected to reopen for vehicle traffic in mid-October from Toole Avenue through the heart of the entertainment and shopping districts to Stone Avenue.
“That’s what we’re anticipating at this point, anyway,” said Jesse Gutierrez, the streetcar project construction manager for the Tucson Transportation Department.
Congress, however, will remain shut from Stone Avenue to Church Avenue – the block with the Fox Theatre, Enoteca Pizzeria and Wine Bar, Rice House, Caffé Milano and Brueggers Bagels.
That block still needs three weeks of sewer work and two weeks of water line work before the road surface can be graded and streetcar tracks installed.
Streetcar tracks are in place and set in concrete on Congress Street from Stone Avenue to 5th Avenue.
Congress will get paved Friday and Saturday, Sept. 28 and 29, but won’t open to traffic for a couple more weeks because utility adjustments and sidewalk work still need to be done.
Congress closed to vehicle traffic in April, and August rains delayed the arrival of track.
But once the first track was rolled to Congress the night of Sept. 10-11, the installation was the fastest yet on the 3.9-mile streetcar route. Crews had the track in place between 6th Avenue and Stone within a few hours and set it in concrete the next day.
“What happened is we brought in the rail in the evening and we just decided to keep working,” Gutierrez said. “We took advantage of every waking hour.”
Streetcar track was pulled to the 5th to 6th Avenue stretch of Congress on Sept. 23.
Streetcar work closed 6th Avenue at Congress on Sept 21. Tracks crossed 6th Avenue on Sept. 23, and the intersection is expected to reopen on Oct. 1, Gutierrez said.
Concurrent with the Congress track work, the second stretch of 4th Avenue streetcar tracks was put in place Sept 18 from 6th Street to half a block past 7th Street. Reopening that stretch to traffic is “a few weeks away, but it’s a month early,” Gutierrez said.
The final stretch of track work on 4th Avenue, from a half block south of 7th Street to 9th Street, awaits completion of box culvert work across 4th Avenue.
The 4th Avenue stretch from 6th Street to University Boulevard was the first to have new streetcar tracks installed and reopened to traffic.
One block west of 4th Avenue, off 8th Street, the concrete block basic shell structure of the three-bay streetcar Maintenance and Storage Facility started to become photogenic in mid-September as the curved bow string truss for the roof was set in place. This repair shop and storage building is set for completion in mid-February – just as the first streetcar is scheduled for delivery from Portland.
University Boulevard through Main Gate Square reopened in August in time for the fall semester at the University of Arizona. By mid-October, the entire intersection at University and Euclid Avenue should reopen as well as a couple more blocks of University Boulevard west to 1st or 2nd Avenue.
2nd Street on the University of Arizona campus still has streetcar track work going on at Mountain Avenue, but otherwise the street is open with tracks in place from the 2nd Street Garage east to Warren Avenue and west from near Mountain to Highland Avenue.
On the west side, the Luis G. Gutierrez Bridge is set to open on Oct. 11. This is the bridge that carries Cushing Street across the Santa Cruz River, about a quarter mile south of Congress Street.
The bridge will only be open for pedestrians and bicyclists at first. No street pavement is in place because the bridge still awaits streetcar tracks, which should be set in early January.
The Oct. 11 opening will be celebrated with a “Walk to the West Side” ceremony at 4 p.m. Oct. 11. Among the participants will be the bridge’s namesake, former City Manager Luis G. Gutierrez and bridge artist Brenda Semanick.
Parking is available at the Mercado San Agustin at Congress Street and Avenida del Convento or at the Riverpark Inn, 350 S. Freeway Street.