Saturday, July 16, 2011

Cushing Street Bridge Groundbreaking

The Cushing Street Bridge marks the start of construction for Tucson's Modern Streetcar
The City of Tucson, government officials and community members on Thursday, July 14th celebrated the start of construction of the Cushing Street Bridge over the Santa Cruz River. The groundbreaking event was attended by nearly 100 people. Twelve people gripped commemorative shovels to unearth dirt where the 320-foot-long bridge will rest on the west bank of the Santa Cruz River.

The bridge will feature one travel lane in each direction, Modern Streetcar tracks in each travel lane, two bicycle lanes, shaded pedestrian walkways and public art. The innovative project is a vital link in the 3.9 mile Modern Streetcar project that will connect riders from the University of Arizona, through downtown to Tucson’s West Side, which is Tucson’s historic birthplace and the current focus of redevelopment activity and investment.
The Ashton Company will be constructing the bridge, and the bridge is scheduled to open next summer.
The City of Tucson has received questions regarding the funding source to construct the bridge. Some have concluded that the City of Tucson Department of Transportation took funding slated to fill potholes and instead used that money to construct the bridge.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) provided the City with over $15 million dollars for "Shovel Ready" projects.
Due to the Federal nature of the ARRA dollars, "Shovel Ready" means a project has been issued an environmental clearance in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act.
Tucson had two pavement rehabilitation projects that were slated to use Federal Surface Transportation Program funds with their environmental clearances issued and ready to bid.  The funding for these projects were replaced with ARRA dollars.
This freed up the Federal Transportation Program funds for another purpose.  The Cushing Street Bridge was the chosen candidate for the use of these funds by the Pima Association of Governments Regional Council who are responsible for the programming of Federal dollars in the region.
The result was that no funding for paving was lost, and funding for the bridge was secured, allowing it to move forward in a timely fashion to meet the Modern Streetcar schedule.