With streetcar rails coming to Congress Street this week and construction on that part of the new line coming to a close, it's getting easier to imagine the finished project.
Mayor Jonathan Rothschild imagines a future with lots of pedestrians - and no cars.
He wants to keep Congress closed to vehicles except the streetcar and make it a pedestrian boulevard where people can hang out between the restaurants and entertainment venues. The streetcar is a good addition to Congress Street as is, Rothschild said, but "it can be so much nicer for not a lot more money."
Think the 16th Street Mall in Denver, the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica, Calif., or the Nicollet Mall in Minneapolis. For an example closer to home, there's the Tombstone Historic District.
"Where it works, it's a great attraction," Rothschild said.
Drivers who come downtown regularly have gotten used to detouring away from Congress and would simply continue to do so, and such an area would be a natural home for events like Second Saturdays.
The mayor said his idea is worth discussing, especially if the basic goal of the streetcar is economic development.
Other city leaders agree the streetcar presents an opportunity to spruce up the Congress Street entertainment district, especially with hundreds of new apartments going up in the area. But the city and the Downtown Tucson Partnership have a more basic, $795,000 project in mind.
They want to fix Congress Street's badly deteriorated sidewalks, which have become trip hazards from years of neglect.
They also want to add benches, lights, water fountains, bike racks and bike corrals, information kiosks near two streetcar stops, trash and recycling bins, shady trees and planters with native plants.
The city doesn't have money for any of it yet, but it is applying for federal funding.
More immediately, this week crews will begin laying the rails between Fifth Avenue and Stone Avenue and later this month Congress Street will get new pavement.
Contact reporter Becky Pallack at 573-4346 or email@example.com. On Twitter @BeckyPallack