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Sep 10, 2013 2:10 AM by Sean Mooney

First ride for Sun Link Streetcar in slow motion

TUCSON - Another destination has been reached by Tucson's modern streetcar. Monday night the first Sun Link Streetcar, number 101, hit the tracks for the first time. But this trip was only a test.

Construction on the Sun Link Streetcar project started in April 2012 and is expected to be up and running by the end of next summer. In the meantime several tests will be conducted to make sure the modern streetcar line is ready for passengers.

Tucson Department of Transportation Deputy Director, Carlos DeLeon, says making sure the rail line is safe is a top priority, "This is the first of what will be many tests to come, but it is a very necessary one to make sure that all the components, mostly the track and the station stops were built properly and meet the specifications we require."

During Monday's test,there was no power supplied to the line so the streetcar was towed. The first voyage included a top speed of less than three miles an hour, down 4th Avenue, followed by a right turn on University before finally ending up a Park Avenue. All told, about seven hours to cover a couple of miles. The big test was to make sure the streetcars exit doors lined up with the station platforms.

Businesses in the area believe the streetcar will help increase traffic to their restaurants and stores. Gentle Ben's General Manager, Richard Fifer, says even with all of the testing still to come, he is still on board, "It has definitely taken a lot longer than we thought it would but we are happy to see light at the end of the tunnel and finally have the streetcar in process."

The Tucson department of Transportation says during peak hours there will be up to six Sun Link streetcars running, arriving at stations every 10 minutes. The fare will cost the same as riding a Sun Tran bus.

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