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El Paso streetcar nearing construction, vehicle rebuilding start-up

Friday, October 23, 2015 2:23 PM | John Nicholson (Administrator)

From Railway Age (9-09-15):

Written by William C. Vantuono, Editor-in-Chief

El Paso City Lines PCC, circa 1963

Transportation officials in El Paso, Tex., are finalizing agreements with two firms to build a $97 million, 4.8-mile streetcar line approved by City Council in 2014. The state-funded project involves refurbishing and placing back into service historic El Paso City Lines PCC cars that operated until the 1970s.

TheCamino Real Regional Mobility Authority, which is overseeing the project, in late August 2015 selected Paso del Norte Trackworks, a joint venture of California-basedGranite Construction Inc.and New York-basedRailWorks Track Systems, andBrookville Equipment Corp. to build the infrastructure and rebuild the PCC cars, respectively. Paso del Norte Trackworks will be responsible for tracks, maintenance and storage facilities, power stations and catenary wires. Brookville will be responsible for resurrecting El Paso’s old PCCs, which have sat dormant for decades in the Texas desert.

Work could begin on the streetcar line, which was designed byAECOM, as early as January 2016. Last year, the Granite/RailWorks joint venture completed a $197 million modern streetcar line in Tucson, Ariz., that opened in July 2014. That system sparked a downtown renaissance, spurring $1.5 billion in private and public development along the route, Tucson city officials and business groups have said.

The El Paso streetcar will run from the Paso del Norte Port of Entry to the West El Paso neighborhood that is home to a campus of El Paso Community College, the University of Texas at El Paso and several hospitals. Construction will be complex, as the route passes through the arts, business, government, entertainment and shopping districts in downtown El Paso, Camino Real Regional Mobility Authority Executive Director Raymond Telles told local media. “We are going to affect a lot of people with this project, so we want to make it as painless as possible,” he said.

Six of El Paso’s vintage PCCs will be transported to Brookville Equipment’s facilities in Pennsylvania and remanufactured and modernized. Originally, plans called for seven PCCs, but the cost of restoring the streetcars was greater than expected, $3.1 million per car, officials said. They hope to eventually add a seventh car using contingency funds that could be freed up when the project is complete.

Brookville, which has remanufactured PCC cars for SEPTA and other transit authorities, will upgrade the 1938-built vehicles with modern propulsion equipment, air conditioning, and pantographs for current collection. The cars will also be ADA-compliant. PCC No. 1511, which was painted by renowned artist Jose Cisneros, will be restored, artwork and all, according to Telles.

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