One of the very promising trends in transit these days is the growing number of American cities that are embracing the modern urban streetcar. And when DOT launched its first round of competitive TIGER grants, the city of Tucson jumped on-board the streetcar revival with both feet.
So yesterday, I was happy to be back in Tucson to help the entire community turn over the first shovel of dirt for the new Sun Link streetcar.
Breaking ground with, from left to right, U.S. Rep Raul Grijalva, Oro Valley Mayor and RTA Chair Satish Hiremath, me, Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild, U.S. Rep. Ed Pastore, and Ed Carranza FTA Region 9 Deputy Regional Administrator
Now, of course, everyone in greater Tucson did not attend yesterday's groundbreaking. But, the entire community was represented because so many different stakeholders really came together to make this exciting project happen. From the area's Congressional delegation, the Regional Transportation Authority, and the Mayor's office to the University of Arizona, the business community, and neighborhood advocates, the city of Tucson created a dynamic partnership of diverse interests working together toward a common goal.
That's something we can all learn from, and it's exactly the kind of cooperation that our TIGER program has been encouraging around the country for the past three years.
Transportation is a gateway to opportunity. Tucson's Sun Link will take its riders to work, where they can earn a decent living to support their families. It will take its riders to a very good university, where they can earn the kind of education that increases their future possibilities. And it will take its riders to Tucson's downtown business center, where they can get the goods and services they need while also supporting local job creators.
Imagine the economic growth that will occur when the first streetcars begin running down 4th Avenue and around the Mercado District loop. Imagine the growth when more than 100,000 people live within walking distance of the streetcar.
Building the Tucson streetcar means jobs. Those economic development investments mean jobs. And new transportation options mean jobs. None of those jobs would have been possible without the vision of the entire community.
As Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild said, "Sun Link will connect neighborhoods. It will connect homes. It will connect businesses. It will connect restaurants and entertainment. It will connect the university. It will connect the downtown business district. It will connect Tucson's West Side."
And each of those connections will only multiply the value of the other connections. The people of Tucson get it, and the leaders of Tucson get it: transportation is good business.