Streetcars Will Spend the Night at the Maintenance and Storage Facility

February 8, 2013

By Teya Vitu

When you board a streetcar, it should be sparking clean and give you a smooth ride to your destination.

The streetcar maintenance and storage facility has three bays.

The streetcar maintenance and storage facility has three bays.

For that to happen, each of the eight Modern Streetcars will get daily tender loving care at the Maintenance and Storage Facility, called the MSF by those in the know.

The MSF is the three-bay, 39-foot-8-inch-high garage for the streetcars located where 8th Street dead-ends just west of 4th Avenue. It is the streetcar system’s single largest structure.

The MSF will be Ground Zero for the entire streetcar system.

The Modern Streetcar’s administrative offices will be here as will the control room tracking all streetcars on the route. Streetcar drivers will have their lockers and break room here.

But as the name indicates, maintenance and storage (and cleaning) will be the dominant  activities.

Every night after the last runs, the streetcars will retreat to the MSF for the nightly cleaning and whatever repair needs arose during the day.

Each of the three service bays has a different specialty.

Bay 1 has a 5-foot-9-inch deep posted rail pit measuring nearly 17 wide and 70 feet long and an upstairs mezzanine level that gives repair crews access to the streetcar roofs.

The tracks are mounted on yellow vertical posts to allow streetcars to roll over the pit.

The pit gives allows repair crews to easily get to the undercarriages to carry out simple repairs to the wheel trucks or loosen the trucks if they need to be removed.

The mezzanine is an upper level used for equipment storage and the floor also reaches over the roof of the streetcar in Bay 1. This gives crews easy access to the four air conditioning units on each streetcar roof and the pantograph arm that reaches up to the power line suspended above the street, called the overhead conductor system.

One bay has a pit to allow crews to work underneath the streetcar.

One bay has a pit to allow crews to work underneath the streetcar.

“Most of the equipment is on the roof,” said Bruce Woodruff, the MSF project manager and an architect in the City of Tucson Architecture and Engineering Division.

The 108-foot-long Bay 2 has the most overhead clearance because this is where portable lifts raise streetcar bodies from the trucks.

“Believe it or not, they get flat tires. You’ll feel it and hear it,” Woodruff said.

Yes, the wheels are steel, but obstructions on the track or sudden braking can create tiny flat spots on the wheel that impact the smoothness or quietness of the ride, he said.

Bay 3 is the longest bay at 143-feet long because it also includes the repair shop for the wheel trucks, called bogies in the trade.

“The third bay is kind of a bonus,” Woodruff said. “That’s the hard down bay. If a streetcar needs a lot of work, that’s where they are going to do it.”

The MSF should be completed by the end of February. The first streetcar delivery from Portland is now expected in April.

By mid-January, Bay 2 track was embedded in 2 feet of concrete. In Bay 1, the vertical posts were in place in the pit, but the track was not installed yet. Bay 3 was still dirt.

Bays 1 and 3 each have 5-ton overhead cranes

Bays 2 and 3 also have turntables at their far ends to allow wheel trucks to get rolled from bay to bay, to the truck shop and to the parts shop.

The turntables allow the wheel trucks to get moved from one bay to another.

The turntables allow the wheel trucks to get moved from one bay to another.

The Maintenance and Storage Facility sits where the three-way intersection of the little used Stevens Avenue, 5th Avenue and 8th Street used to be. The Arroyo Chico also used to flow where the MSF stands. The arroyo was rerouted in the 8th Street Drainage Project.

The car wash sits on the former Stevens Avenue, which was reduced from a 50-foot-wide street to a 14-foot-wide fire lane wedged between the car wash and Maloney’s.

“The streetcars are going to be on the street for 20 hours a day,” Woodruff said. “They come here and clean them up.”

This car wash differs a bit from the one you take your car to.

“There are no rotating brushes,” Woodruff said. “It’s all high-pressure wash with reverse osmosis water that causes no spotting. The streetcars will drive through the wash at a slow speed.”

The $7.6 million Maintenance and Storage Facility is being built by the Tucson Department of Transportation, which specializes in horizontal construction like roads rather than vertical buildings. But Jesse Gutierrez, TDOT’s streetcar project construction manager, decided it made more sense for Transportation to oversee construction of the building since it’s function revolves entirely around transportation.

“It so integrated to the line section project that we saw it as a minor variation of what we normally do,” Gutierrez said.

The Modern Streetcar system will be operated by RATP Dev McDonald Transit, for which Tucson and Washington, D.C. will be its first two streetcar systems in the United States. D.C. like Tucson is still building its streetcar line.

Fort Worth-based McDonald Transit Associates is the fourth largest public transit contract operator in the U.S. serving 31 public service agencies with bus, rail and para transit operations. Paris-based RATP Dev acquired a 51-percent share of McDonald Transit in 2009 and the Texas subsidiary’s official name is RATP Dev McDonald Transit.

RATP Dev operates streetcars in Florence, Italy; Manchester, England; Hong Kong; and Paris.