Streetcar Stops Will Have Elaborate Art Works

August 30, 2011


This streetcar stop at Broadway/Church will feature the 5 C's of Arizona history.

By Teya Vitu


Eight stops along  the Modern Streetcar route will have elaborate art works created by Tucson artists.

Models of these art-enhanced streetcar stops were displayed Aug. 25 at a streetcar public art open house at the Riverpark Inn. Construction of the streetcar route is set to start in early 2012.

Metal sculptor Joe Tyler will incorporate the Arizona Centennial theme into the streetcar stops at Congress/Church and Broadway/Church.

At Congress/Church, Tyler will install an arch across the walkway and place a metal century plant atop the arch. A steel 2012 banner will drape off the shelter’s side.

“This is all about the Centennial,” Tyler said. “The 15 blooms on the century plant represent the counties of the state. The 100 leaves are for 100 years.”

Turning to his model of  the Broadway/Church stop, he said, “I’ll put the 5 C’s here.”

A cattle skull will hang on one side of the shelter. An enlarged copper penny and a stylized sun (climate) will stand on edge atop the shelter. A cotton plant will hang off the other side, and a citrus tree will stand of to the side.

All are made from welded steel and colored with automotive paint.

“This is what drove the Arizona economy for the first 100 years,” Tyler said. “The sun is on a bering and turns in the wind.

Joe O’Connell and Blessing Hancock are collaborating on an interactive light sculpture for the Granada/Cushing stop at the Tucson Convention Center. Lighted triangle panels are linked together atop poles.

“You touch a point on the pole to change the colors,” O’Connell said. “You can control the color of all of (the triangles).”

Cristina Cardenas and Xochitl Gil-Higuchi are creating a 60-foot winding historic walking path at Congess/Avenida del Convento, the streetcar’s western terminus. One section will have four-foot high rose pedals, and historic tiles will be in the walkway.

Simon Donovan and Ben Olmstead  have the most striking art work at the Helen/Warren stop. Called “The Poet,” a detached poet head, nose up, will be made of stainless steel letters, and a lettered strip will lead from poet’s mouth to a message board.

The Modern Streetcar project has been a moving target of construction dates and completion dates. Back in May 2007, the projected completion date was early 2010.

Then in 2011, the timeline called for a streetcar in operation  in time for the Centennial celebrations in February 2012.

When federal funding was finally nailed down in Feb. 2010, streetcar construction was expected to rip up streets in the first quarter of 2011 and be finished in the second half of 2012.

All those year-to-year streetcar service projections came either before funding was locked up or designs were drawn. And since U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood delivered a $63 million federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) discretionary fund check, the Tucson Department of Transportation changed the contracting process to build the route.

Instead of separate contracts for the four segments of the streetcar route, it was decided to have a single contract cover the entire route. Plus, TDOT decided to use a different rail for the track.This pushed back the start date yet another year.

For the first time, the streetcar project has a concrete start date with a) funding in place, b) designs almost done and c) an October date to put the project out to bid.

“Construction will begin in early 2012,” said Shellie Ginn, streetcar project manager for the Tucson Department of Transportation. “We will issue a notice to proceed by the end of 2011. We are finalizing plans right now. There is a 16-month time frame for construction through early 2013.”

Ginn expects the Modern Streetcar to be ready for passengers in October 2013.

Last week, the Arizona Republic reported that streetcar projects in Mesa and Tempe are in jeopardy because the debt-ceiling crisis in Congress. Ginn said the Tucson streetcar is clear of any Congressional budget cutting.

“Our grant agreement with the U.S. Department of Transportation and Federal Transportation Administration has solidified our funding for the streetcar,” Ginn said. “We are not in jeopardy of having it taken away. That’s what we have been told.”

Tucson got the third largest one-city award in the $1.5 billion TIGER funding distributed among 61projects.