Ground broken on Tucson east-west link

Posted: Updated:

TUCSON, Ariz. -- Some Tucson residents and business owners are hoping a new city project will bridge the gap between the east and west side of town.

The city broke ground Thursday on the Cushing Street Bridge, which will span the Santa Cruz River.

It's the sound of revitalization on Tucson's west side.

"We bought into a development on an empty piece of, a huge piece of property and people thought we were crazy," said Mercado District resident Gene Einfrank.

Thursday that speculation paid off, when the city broke ground on the Cushing Street bridge.

The 320 foot structure is a link in the 3.9 mile modern streetcar project. It will connect riders from the U of A, through downtown, to Tucson's west side.

"When Interstate 10 was widened, they widened the underpass along the Cushing Street alignment to accommodate the modern streetcar traveling underneath it and connecting to the west side," said Jim Glock from the Tucson Department of Transportation.

It connects to a west side that has been plagued with Rio Nuevo mishaps. The struggle has prompted some to call this new project "A Bridge to Nowhere."

But city leaders insist otherwise.

"Plans are underway to fully develop this parcel, so this bridge is actually a stimulus investment that I think will help Tucson grow overall," said Glock.

That growth starts with construction jobs for nearly 100 people. Then come the tourists and residents who will use the bridge.

"The bridge is excellent for our business.  It's excellent for downtown.  It's excellent for all the hotels along the frontage road," said Maurice Destouet from the River Park Inn.

Nearby residents say it's just a matter of time before their backyards get a big makeover.

"It goes back to that old saying, 'If you build it, they will come.'  And I think that is what is going to be happening," said Einfrank.

The total cost of the project will be about $9 million dollars. It should get done in about a year.

When completed the Cushing Street Bridge will include one lane of travel in each direction with street car tracks in each lane, two bicycle lanes, a shaded pedestrian walkway and public art.

Construction of the bridge will result in a detour for pedestrians and bicyclists along the east bank of the Santa Cruz River Park path.  The detour will extend from just north of Granada Avenue south to Simpson Street.