New delays mean Tuscon streetcars might not run until 2014

Those hoping to board Tuscon streetcars for the first time next fall may have to wait up to eight additional months before riding the new line.

The company hired to build the city’s streetcars continues to experience production delays. Some city officials are now saying it’s possible the opening day for the line could get pushed back from October 2013 to late spring or early summer of 2014.

As recently as last month, city officials thought Tucson’s first streetcar would begin testing on tracks in Oregon on Dec. 26 and be delivered here sometime in February. However, expectations changed after a visit to the United Streetcar plant about two weeks ago.

“They have been plagued by production issues,” said Tucson’s Sun Link co-manager, Andrew Quigley, who was on the trip to the plant in Oregon. “And I think they have been unrealistic with their timelines.” Quigley said changes to the Portland, Ore., streetcars that the plant is also producing and other factors have him predicting Tucson’s first vehicle likely won’t start testing until the end of February.

United Streetcar “has allocated staff to the Portland vehicles due to continued design modifications,” Quigley wrote in a memo. “This has resulted in their inability to put sufficient labor on our vehicles to meet their schedule.”

Based on this, Quigley anticipates the city’s first car won’t be delivered until mid- to late April. If this occurs, United Streetcar will have missed the end of March contractual deadline to deliver the first vehicle.

At that time, it will be up to the city’s Procurement Department to determine if it wants to start assessing damages of $250 a day for the first 90 days and $1,200 a day thereafter, Quigley said. United Streetcar President Chandra Brown was out of the country and could not be reached for comment.

Even after it arrives, the car still needs to undergo rigorous testing on Tucson’s tracks before being approved for service. “We have lots of testing before meeting our certification requirements,” Quigley said. For a frame of reference, it took Portland about four months to complete testing of the prototype it received from United Streetcar before putting the car into service on its tracks.

In addition, Quigley said, while one vehicle is an adequate start, the city’s new system can’t be tested thoroughly until the second vehicle is delivered. The second vehicle “tells you what your demands for power are and how to safely operate the system.”

Quigley estimates the second car could arrive in May or June. The other six cars would be delivered sometime after that. Even though delays are becoming commonplace, Quigley still believes United Streetcar will overcome these issues and deliver in the end. “They are going to have a quality streetcar, and they are going to make this right,” he said.

He said safety and reliability should be the city’s top priority, and it shouldn’t rush just to make a deadline, which is part of the reason Quigley is mentioning a potential delay in opening the line. Quigley will return to Oregon next month for another update.


Source : azstarnet

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