There can be no denying that travelling in Tucson can sometimes be an adventure, but now that the wraps are off the city’s new streetcar service, students and others who work and play in the downtown area have a pollution-free and parking advantageous option.

But as it is with every major construction project that snakes through a historic downtown, many construction-phase challenges that will likely be invisible to passengers. The most notable challenges included tie-overs for water lines, two large street festivals, and the presence of historic civil infrastructure, according to members of the project team.

Its projected overall cost of $196 million is being met through a combination of local funding sources and federal grants.

We profiled this project this March and you can read that article here.

“Normally, our approach is to locate all of the obstructions along a utility route, and then dig like crazy in between them,” said Sun Link Construction Superintendent Stanton Jernigan of Granite Construction when we talked to him in March. “On this job, our operators were very delicate and cautious all the time because we encountered so many unmarked utilities.”

The official opening was held July 25 for the 3.85-mile route that features 23 stops. For the $197 million hard-bid project was performed by Old Pueblo TrackWorks, a joint-venture partnership between Granite Construction Company and RailWorks Track Systems Inc. Besides the line itself, work included construction of the maintenance and storage facility, as well as installation of the streetcar vehicles.

blog post photo

Granite performed all the civil work, including removals and relocation of numerous underground utilities, grading, forming and casting the track slab, pavements, curb and flatwork. RailWorks supplied and installed 3.85 miles of the embedded double-track, including 17 pieces of special track work. RailWorks’ subsidiary L.K. Comstock National Transit installed six traction power substations and procured, installed and tested the overhead catenary system, signals and low-voltage feeder cables for the substations.

Area voters approved the Sun Link streetcar project in 2006. Construction began in 2012 and concluded in Oct. 2013. The construction was followed by extensive testing of the line and arrival of the eight streetcar vehicles, which were part of the first order of vehicles manufactured in the United States in nearly 60 years, meeting 'Buy America' requirements. The City of Tucson and the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) co-managed the project.

“This is an exciting time for Tucson residents,” said Todd Keller, vice president and Arizona region manager of Granite Construction, adding, “The streetcar connects more than 100,000 people living and working within a half-mile of the route, bringing sustainable development and revitalizing downtown businesses.”

 The project was recently honored with two awards from the American Public Works Association: the 2014 Arizona Chapter Project of the Year (more than $75 million category); and the 2014 Professional Award of Merit given to Joe Chase, P.E., project manager for the Tucson Department of Transportation. The project also is in the running for the APWA National Project of the Year.