/ Modified may 9, 2012 4:43 p.m.

Modern Streetcar Construction Disrupts Downtown

Tucson businesses endure hardship for 'prize at the end of the tunnel'

If your commute requires any time along the future path of Tucson’s modern streetcar line, it’s likely that you’ve had to modify your route through the busy streets.

Line Segments 2, 3, and 4 are under construction, and many people are experiencing disruptions in how they navigate through the area.

Todd Norman, a Cat Tran shuttle driver for the University of Arizona, says his route has been affected by construction along 4th Avenue, 6th Street and other downtown streets. He's now forced to modify his route with a series of detours that take him and his passengers through residential neighborhoods, odd switch-backs and congested intersections.

“It’s neverending, but we have to do the best we can and work around it,” says Norman as he maneuvers through side streets in the West University neighborhood.

Martin Fontes, owner and operator of Martin’s Comida Chingona, opened his small restaurant on 4th Avenue 11 years ago.

He says the construction currently taking place in front of his business is eating into his profits, but he’s willing to put up with the inconvenience because he’s optimistic about the benefits the modern streetcar will bring to the area.

“Clearly, we’re all going to be impacted by not having the walk-by traffic,” says Fontes. “But I’m fortunate for being a restaurant, and we have an [established] clientele after 11 years.”

Tank Ojha is owner and operator of Everest Imports, a small shop nestled on the same normally busy stretch of 4th Avenue that Fontes is on.

But Ojha has a slightly different take on the construction process. He wonders if his business will still be around by the time the first passengers arrive on the modern streetcar.

“Honestly speaking, this month I’m paying the rent out of my own pocket,” says Ojha. “Now they are saying it may be the end of July before they open this street … it may be too late.”

Donna DiFiore, owner of Delectables Restaurant and Catering, says her business can be considered one of the "heritage" establishments along the business district on 4th Avenue, because it's been in operation since 1973.

DiFiore agrees the construction process is putting some stress on many of the independent businesses along the streetcar route, but she also feels the end result will be worth the inconvenience.

“I guess my eye is more on the prize at the end of the tunnel, rather than looking at the piles of dirt,” she says.

The four-mile modern streetcar line is estimated to cost almost $200 million, and is scheduled for completion in October 2013.

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