Tucson continued its countdown to the beginning of streetcar service by honoring a group of congressmen who supported the project.
Congressmen Raúl Grijalva and Ron Barber, both Tucson Democrats, along with U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer, an Oregon Democrat, were honored at a news conference Tuesday morning at the Sun Link Operations and Maintenance facility, west of Fourth Avenue on Eighth Street.
After the news conference, the lawmakers, along with numerous local officials and members of the media, rode the streetcar from the maintenance facility to the Mercado District, west of Interstate 10, to unveil a plaque to recognize Grijalva, who helped secure federal money for the $197 million project.
During the news conference, the three congressmen all extolled the benefits of the streetcar, especially the line’s role in rejuvenating downtown and the local economy while connecting various neighborhoods along the route.
Downtown’s current transformation reminded Grijalva of the days when there were numerous department stores and restaurants, and plenty of nightlife in the area, he said.
“This streetcar is probably going to be the tool in that toolbox of redevelopment and revitalization for the city of Tucson,” he said. “To see that come back up again, I couldn’t ask for any more.”
Barber pointed to the economic benefits of the streetcar, including the creation of permanent jobs and the opening of dozens of new restaurants and other businesses along the route.
“When businesses are looking to relocate in a new city, they look for a lot of things,” Barber said. “Most companies look to see if there is a vibrant, entertaining downtown. And we have one.”
The streetcar will start carrying passengers on Friday after a series of ribbon-cutting ceremonies earlier in the morning.
There will be a variety of events in each of the five districts served by the 3.9-mile line.
Those districts are the Mercado, downtown, Fourth Avenue, Main Gate Square and the University of Arizona.