Thursday, July 19, 2012

FTA to Tucson: Buy another streetcar

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Tucson's order of seven streetcars from United Streetcar, LLC isn't adequate to serve the city's four-mile line, now under construction, the Federal Transit Administration says. FTA recommends an eighth car be purchased.

In response, City Streetcar Project Administrator Shellie Ginn said city planners believed six active cars and one spare were enough, but acknowledged that FTA is "very concerned that having one spare was not enough, especially for a starter system," according to local media.

Tucson's City Council Tuesday voted to authorize the purchase of an additional car and to explore all funding options, including selling "certificates of participation," a form of non-voter-approved bonds. No final funding has yet been determined.

Ginn said the city is preparing to sell for a profit the option to buy some additional cars that were included in the original budget.

Costs for the project thus far have been lower than expected, so the city might not have to pay as much as originally anticipated, she said.

But others note the streetcar project already is $19 million over budget, countering Ginn's assertion. If the money is in the budget, why are they asking for new money to fund it?" Counciman Steve Kozachik asked. "Staff needs to understand we are not going to roll over and play dead on a $20 million debt."

Kozachik said he would like Tucson to ask FTA to waive the requirement of the eighth car.