We're 300 days into the 475-day streetcar construction calendar.

While there's still a lot of work to do, what's left should be a whole lot less disruptive to traffic, businesses and neighborhoods, said project manager Jesse Gutierrez.

We'll get to the progress report, but first there's one more major downtown traffic headache you need to know about.

Over the weekend crews closed Stone and Church avenues at Congress Street. Those intersections will stay closed for a couple of weeks while they finish laying rail and paving the streets. Use Sixth Avenue or Granada Avenue to get around.

Although it seems like some areas have been under construction forever, the percentage of work done is on track with the plans, and work is chugging along - even though some streets have been torn up and shut down a lot longer than many of us anticipated.

Utility surprises - well, Tucson Transportation Director Daryl Cole calls them "nightmares" - have made construction on Congress Street, in particular, take a lot longer than anybody figured.

When crews dug up Congress, they found pipes that are 100 years old and in bad shape. They found utilities they didn't know existed. And once you find that stuff, you have to fix it or remove it, and it's not always easy, Gutierrez said.

To solve surprise problems under Congress between Stone and Church avenues, crews took extra care, sometimes digging by hand, to avoid damaging fragile old lines and expensive new fiber optic lines, he said.

Some streets now under construction, including areas around the Tucson Convention Center, are on an accelerated schedule to get heavy work done before the gem shows and other major conventions roll into town in the next few weeks, Gutierrez and Cole said.

A majority of the rail is in place. There's rail on the streets on the University of Arizona campus, University Boulevard, Fourth Avenue, parts of Congress Street and Granada Avenue.

What's left to do is rail on Broadway and more of Congress Street and west-side areas, plus the overhead electrical systems and the stops.

"We're going to be at the point where the major construction is done, and it's just putting up wires and stops and detail work. That takes time, but it won't be the lengthy street closures," Gutierrez said.

The first stops will pop up in the coming weeks on Fourth Avenue, where crews poured foundations last week.

The Warren Street underpass, where the streetcar will cross under Speedway to connect the hospital and the main campus, is about 40 percent done. Construction on that segment will go through May, Gutierrez said.

Cole said the city expects to get the first streetcar in April, and service will begin in 2014.


You can learn more about an upcoming project to widen Ajo Highway between Valencia and Kinney roads at a public meeting at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at Tucson Mountain Baptist Church, 5757 W. Ajo Highway.

The project is in the design phase now, and construction is expected to begin next fall.

Road Q

"The traffic light at River and Pontatoc has malfunctioned for some time, turning red on River when there is no cross traffic," Bill Krauter wrote.

A: After forwarding your concern to Mo Farhat at the Pima County Transportation Department, a technician repaired the malfunctioning detector at the intersection. That makes one less stop in your stop-and-go commute.

Send your Road Q questions by email to roadrunner@azstarnet.com or to 4850 S. Park Ave., Tucson, AZ 85714. Please include first and last names.