Thursday, November 28, 2013

Tucson Sun Link streetcar tests under way

Written by  William C. Vantuono, Editor-in-Chief
Tucson Sun Link streetcar tests under way Jeff Schultz
Testing of United Streetcar 200 vehicles for the $197 million Tucson, Ariz., Sun Link Tucson Streetcar (also known as the Tucson Modern Streetcar) is under way.

Sun Link will maintain a fleet of eight United Streetcar 200s, using up to six cars at one time. Tucson placed an initial $26 million order for seven cars in June 2010. The eighth car was ordered for an additional $3.6 million in July 2012 in order to satisfy Federal Transit Administration requirements for a second spare. United Streetcar’s first model 200 car arrived in Tucson on Aug. 30, 2013.

Tucson’s United Streetcar 200 is a 66-foot-long, double-ended (bi-directional), electric rail vehicle, articulated into three sections. The center section floor is at platform height with two double-door entrances on each side for accessibility and low dwell times. Each side of the car has a third passenger door located behind the operator cab. Propulsion is provided by four 90-kW motors drawing power via catenary. The streetcar has a maximum speed of 43.5 mph and a capacity of 156 passengers (29 seated and 127 standing). The 200 model is largely identical to the United Streetcar 100, built for the Portland Streetcar system, the only major difference being that the 200 is equipped with upgraded air-conditioning. The design of the 100 model itself is based on the Czech-made Škoda 10 T.

Since its inception in 2004, the Sun Link Tucson Streetcar project has been co-managed by the City of Tucson and the Regional Transportation Authority with oversight by the FTA. The construction component of the project is being managed by the City of Tucson Department of Transportation. Community involvement and public input has also helped to shape the project. A Community Liaison Group (CLG), made up of 35 representatives from stakeholder groups along the route alignment was formed in 2004 as part of an extensive community outreach effort. In addition, the project team conducted multiple public meetings and open houses.

The 3.9-mile streetcar route will connect major activity centers: The University of Arizona, Arizona Health Sciences Center, University Main Gate Business District, 4th Avenue Business District, Congress Avenue Shopping and Entertainment District, and the Mercado District.

According to officials, the Sun Link project “has already triggered transit oriented development—new retail, office, and residential development and redevelopment along the streetcar corridor. To date, more than $800 million has been invested by the private sector. Fifty new restaurants, bars and cafes, some 1,500 new student housing apartments, plus 58 new retail businesses have popped up along the route over the past two years, and there are mixed-use housing developments in the works. Additionally, there has been significant corporate business expansion within the Sun Link route: a new headquarters for UniSource Energy, with more than 400 employees, and Providence Service Corp., both publicly traded companies.”

Construction of the right-of-way began in April 2012 and is nearly complete. A $56 million contract for removal of existing roadway, utility relocation, installation of track, resurfacing, and construction of the system's 21 covered, accessible stops was awarded to Old Pueblo Trackworks, a joint venture of Granite Construction and RailWorks Track Systems, in March 2012. Revenue service is expected to begin July 2014.