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New Orleans - April 2014

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New Orleans — Loyola Went Over Budget

April 2014

New Orleans Regional Transit Authority [RTA] went over budget in building the Loyola Avenue streetcar line and that was due to underground surprises such as crumbling water lines and power lines where they weren't supposed to be, WWL Television reports. RTA received $45 million in federal funds to build the streetcar spur but the final cost was around $60 million, the TV station says. The extra $15 million came from a fund intended for streetcar expansion along the so-called Desire Corridor along North Rampart Street.

When the line was being planned questions were raised about the need for a rail connection between busy Canal Street and the lightly-used Union Passenger Terminal. However, city leaders pointed out that the project had been awarded a $45 million federal grant that would cover the entire cost of the line. It now turns out that the line cost considerably more, even exceeding the $52 million figure cited when the line was opened before the 2013 Super Bowl. Current analysis shows the cost as $60 million. To cover this, the RTA diverted $15 million of the $75 million in local bond funding intended to pay to extend the new line across Canal then along North Rampart and St. Claude as far as Press Street. The loss of this $15 million means the line will initially go only as far as Elysian Fields Avenue.

Contractors building the Loyola line reported that they often found conditions underground to be different from what showed on city drawings and also found many items that were in drawings to be in very poor condition, necessitating expensive repairs. According to the RTA's management firm, Veolia Transportation, there were unknown underground drainage canals, crumbling water mains, and sewer and power lines located in the wrong spots. There was also an old icehouse basement leaking ammonia and a petrified tree stump. All of these caused delays and raised the construction cost.

Entergy missed deadlines in their $1.4 million contract to move underground power lines, then was awarded an extra $680,000 to cover moving unknown lines. All of these items boosted costs.

Reported ridership numbers show the Loyola line exceeding the anticipated 1,000 to 1,400 daily riders and is now typically carrying 1,700 daily. However, much of that increase may come from the fact that the RTA cut back the Freret and Martin Luther King bus lines to the UPT, forcing passengers to transfer to the streetcar to reach downtown.

All involved in the Loyola line are trying to apply lessons learned to the North Rampart line now underway, but already affected by delays.


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