Streetcar Tracks are in Place on University Boulevard and 2nd Street
By Teya Vitu
Streetcar tracks have been getting installed at the rate of 400 feet or more per night since Aug. 24 to complete the stretch of University Boulevard from Park Avenue through Main Gate Square to 3rd Avenue.
Streets that are now reopened to traffic with streetcar tracks include University Boulevard from Park to Euclid Avenue; 4th Avenue from University Boulevard to Sixth Street; and 2nd Street on the University of Arizona campus from Park Avenue to the 2nd Street Garage.
Streetcar track installation has been going on pretty much continuously since the week of May 21. Track work in the last days of August was underway on 2nd Street at UA from the 2nd Street Garage to Warren Avenue, where the Hillenbrand softball stadium is.
Track installation next moves to 8th Street, which will carry streetcars from 4th Avenue to the Maintenance and Storage Facility, the large block structure that has taken shape at the west end of 8th Street and should be complete by mid-February.
“We are either pulling track, welding track, laying track, pouring concrete or paving track nonstop,” said Jesse Gutierrez, the streetcar project construction manager for the city Transportation Department.
The 8th Street track work should start right after Labor Day. The following week tracks should go down on 4th Avenue from 6th Street to mid-block between 7th and 8th Street. After that, track work will get to Congress Street.
“We’re planning on opening 4th Avenue between 6th and 7th Street in a month and a half (or mid-October),” Gutierrez said.
Reopening Congress Street to vehicle traffic has no firm timeline.
Monsoon rains in August put Congress work about two weeks behind schedule, Gutierrez said.
“We should be pulling rail onto the job site after the Labor Day week,” Gutierrez said in describing “pulling track” as putting the rail on small wheels and pulling it down the street in 720-foot sections.
In the past month, Congress work has involved putting in power pole foundations, curb work, grading and last-minute sewer connections.
“We’re going to remove about 4 inches of the whole roadway on Congress for the tracks from 5th Avenue to Stone Avenue,” Gutierrez said. “We have to go through an intersection at 6th Avenue (with Congress rail work). It should take about two weeks to get all the rail done.”
However, Congress between Stone and Church, in front of the Fox Theatre, is behind the rest of Congress because of problematic sewer issues, Gutierrez said.
Also between Church and Stone, underground utility surprises have thrown a wrinkle into Broadway work. Broadway was supposed to be shut down for one month from Aug. 6 to install new water and sewer lines, but Broadway was quickly reopened after crews found the water, sewer, electricity, cable and communications lines did not match the documentation.
“It was a bowl of spaghetti,” Gutierrez said. “The goal was to install new water and sewer mains but there was no way for us to even get to the old lines let alone put in new lines. Once we went in there we saw a tremendous amount of conflicts in there with other utilities. Everything you could imagine was in the way. It was different from what we had been given by the utilities.”
So it was literally back to the drawing board to redesign the whole project. Gutierrez is uncertain when Broadway will again be shut down for the one block between Church and Stone.
“We will look at the Tucson Convention Center events schedule,” he said. “It might be October or early November. We’re not sure.”
Broadway has seen overnight work since early July with water line crossings east of Stone Avenue and sewer line crossing west of Stone to Granada Avenue.
Construction finished in early August on the Luis G. Gutierrez Bridge, which carries Cushing Street across the Santa Cruz River, about a quarter mile south of Congress Street. But the bridge is not open yet because rain has delayed sidewalk art installation.
The bridge is expected to open to pedestrian and bicycle traffic the week of Sept. 10. No vehicle traffic will be involved because only the sidewalks are done. The street was not completed to await streetcar track installation in late 2012 and early 2013.