People enjoy the nightlife of North Fourth Avenue and downtown by way of Sun Link Streetcar as it picks up passengers on North Fourth Avenue.

Here’s the thing we all learned about the Sun Link Tucson Streetcar from when it derailed last week: It isn’t as simple an operation as it seems.

Ignore that it is just on a one-way track that loops through downtown and the University of Arizona. It, just like any other modern form of mass transportation, requires constant attention to critical details.

Like how fast you are going.

Don’t expect to set any land speed records with the streetcar, but the driver can technically push the electric vehicle faster than safe operating speeds.

That’s what happened on Sunday, July 1, when Car 101 derailed at 6:10 p.m., killing traffic along Fourth Avenue in both directions for several hours.

No one was hurt in the evening crash, although there was some damage to the streetcar and the right of way.

City officials are less than forthcoming regarding details, refusing to disclose the initial accident report and in-cabin videos of the driver at the time of the incident, citing federal safety regulations.

What is known is that before the modern streetcar went sliding sideways near Maloney’s, it was heading straight north on Fourth Avenue when it was jolted off its track, forced to make a turn due to a switch in the tracks being in the wrong position.

Samuel Credio with the Tucson Department of Transportation wouldn’t disclose how fast the blue and green trolley was traveling, instead saying it was going too fast to make the turn, but not necessarily to drive in a straight line as was intended.

“The operator was moving at a higher rate of speed than is allowed for proper movement,” Credio said in an email to city staff.

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The top speed of the Sun Link Tucson Streetcar is about 25 mph.

Credio said that if the Streetcar had been traveling slower with the switch on, it would have made the turn with no issues.

The accident more than a week ago was the first time that the Streetcar has jumped the tracks.

Down the Road
  •  The Arizona Department of Transportation will close one lane of westbound Interstate 10 east of Benson at Milepost 312 on Monday, July 9. Crews will close the right lane from 6 a.m. to noon for guardrail repair work. Drivers should proceed through the work zone with caution.
  •  Crews working for ADOT will close Wilmot Road underneath Interstate 10 on Thursday night to install a new bridge deck. During the closure, all vehicles should either cross I-10 using Craycroft or Kolb. Work is set to begin at 8 p.m. and end by 5 a.m. the following morning.

Contact reporter Joe Ferguson at 573-4197 or jferguson@tucson.com. On Twitter: @JoeFerguson

Reporter

Joe has been with the Star for six years. He covers politics as well as the city of Tucson and other municipalities in Southern Arizona. He graduated from the UA and previously worked for the Arizona Daily Sun.