Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is scheduled to be in Tucson this week, where he is expected to make a major announcement, possibly about funding for the city's planned streetcar connecting the University of Arizona with downtown.

The city applied for a federal grant - through stimulus funds - to build the rail line and has been expecting a response this week, perhaps as soon as today.

LaHood has scheduled a press conference for Thursday morning at the Historic Train Depot, adjacent to recently completed Fourth Avenue Underpass, which was designed with the light rail line in mind.

Congressman Raúl Grijalva said he has no details about the visit other than that it involves a "major transportation initiative," but hopes it will result in funding for a major portion of the $150 million cost to build the four-mile rail line.

"I'll be very gratified if that's what it is. It's something we've been working toward for three, nearly four years," Grijalva said.

No city officials could be reached Monday. Offices were closed for Presidents Day.

The four-mile modern streetcar would run from near the University Medical Center through downtown to the west side of the Santa Cruz River. The Regional Transportation Plan and tax approved by voters in 2006 included $88 million for it, with another $75 million to come from federal grants. Anything left after construction and equipment is paid for can be used to pay operating costs in the early years.

The city has already received $6 million in federal money for planning and design. It has spent $12.2 million on the project, and plans to spend another $13 million for a Cushing Street bridge to take the streetcar over the Santa Cruz.

If the funding comes through, city officials hope the streetcar line can be under construction later this year and be operational in 2012.

LaHood will be the second Cabinet-level figure Grijalva has brought to Tucson this week. This morning Labor Secretary Hilda Solis will appear at the Pima County One Stop Center to announce a major jobs program grant.

Contact reporter Rob O'Dell at 573-4346 or rodell@azstarnet.com