Tucson and Pima County officials are at an impasse over disputed plans to build a streetcar stop over a major county sewer interceptor.
The stop would hinder maintenance of the sewer line and would delay and inflate repair costs if the line failed, county officials say.
The city counters that those concerns are overblown because the stop is little more than benches and a shelter from the weather. Further, the county agreed to the location in 2011, city officials say.
Concerns about fixing the sewer line pale next to the cost and delay that moving the stop would cause to construction of the modern streetcar line. Already, work has resulted in many major downtown streets being shut down or restricted for months.
The sewer interceptor and streetcar stop in question are at South Granada Avenue near West Cushing Street.
On Dec. 6, John Warner, deputy director at Pima County's Regional Wastewater Reclamation Department, sent a letter asking the city to move the stop over the county's southeast interceptor.
The county bought an easement for its interceptor at a "significant cost" in 1985 to protect its infrastructure, and the city needs to recognize that, Warner said, demanding the city recognize county property rights.
The county wants the stop moved to just west of the sewer easement, next to the proposed site.
While it's unclear what the actual structure will be, county wastewater Director Jackson Jenkins said the designs he has seen raise serious concerns about how the county can maintain or repair the interceptor.
"It's some type of ramada or shelter they want to build over it," Jenkins said. "If you had to excavate, a backhoe or other heavy equipment couldn't access the site. It's just adding complications to maintaining critical infrastructure.
"There are other places where the tracks cross over sewer lines, but an interceptor is such a critical part that we have more concerns," Jenkins said.
He said pipes last, on average, 50 years. The pipe under the proposed stop is about 30 years old.
The county got an answer to its demand on Friday, six weeks after the letter was sent.
The city analyzed the county's concerns and determined they don't merit a change in plans, Sun Link co-manager Andrew Quigley wrote.
The county is operating under a "misconception" if it thinks the stop's location will make fixing the pipe significantly more difficult and costly, Quigley wrote.
Except for the concrete slab that has been laid, everything there is easily salvageable if the sewer line needs to be accessed. What the county calls an extensive structure is little more than a shade structure, a hand railing and some artwork, he said.
If cost is the concern, Quigley said, any change in the stop would delay construction and affect utility work along Granada Avenue. And those costs would have to be shouldered by the county, since the request came after the design was approved and construction began, he said.
Further, Quigley's letter says, it was deemed impractical to move the stop after a private developer who owns property near the stop asked the city to move it because the stop obstructed access to the developer's property. Moving it to the west would place it in the intersection, and moving it to the east would place it along a curved section of track and create conflicts with an existing catch basin.
County officials didn't have all the information they have now when they signed off on plans 14 months ago, Jenkins said.
After reviewing the city's letter, Chuck Huckelberry, the county administrator, said there needs to be more detail about which government would have to pay for any major repair at the site.
"If it must stay where it has been located, the city will have to acknowledge that if we have to move the stop, or anything attached to it for access to our facilities, then the city is responsible for the cost," Huckelberry wrote in an email.
"It's some type of ramada or shelter they want to build over it. If you had to excavate, a backhoe or other heavy equipment couldn't access the site. It's just adding complications to maintaining critical infrastructure."
Jackson Jenkins, county wastewater director
Contact reporter Darren DaRonco at 573-4243 or firstname.lastname@example.org.