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Tucson - December 2010

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Tucson ― Streetcar Races To Win Federal Funds

Rail Transit Online, December 2010

A Dec. 31 deadline has been set to finalize a $63-million Federal Transportation Administration grant for the downtown Tucson streetcar project. City officials are fearful that Republicans in the new Congress will try to block the award. The GOP will control the House of Representatives beginning Jan. 5, while the Democrat majority in the Senate will be substantially reduced. Republican leaders, as part of their campaign to cut spending, have reportedly targeted any unobligated federal stimulus funds, including the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) program.

Tucson has been approved for a $63-million TIGER grant to help build a $196-million, 3.6-mi. (5.8 km) modern streetcar line connecting the University Medical Center, the University of Arizona campus, downtown and the Rio Nuevo cultural center. Once the grant is released, Congress couldn't take back the money, according to city Transportation Director Jim Glock.

However, the FTA won't release the cash until the city meets certain requirements including completion of a supplemental environmental impact statement, a final financing plan and a construction schedule approved by the FTA. Even though Tucson is still $26 million short of fully funding the streetcar, the FTA has verbally approved the city's latest financial strategy, which calls for issuing grant anticipation notes or certificates of participation to make up the shortfall.

Mayor Bob Walkup is confident the project won't be stopped. "Once it's out of their bank and in our bank, it's ours," he told the Arizona Daily Star. "It will be done. I'm betting my job on it."


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