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New Orleans - February 2006

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New Orleans

Rail Transit Online, February 2006 

Rebuilding with LRT

The Bring New Orleans Back Commission has proposed a comprehensive, and controversial, plan to revive the hurricane-devastated city that relies in part on short streetcar extensions and construction of a 53-mi. (85.3 km) light rail system costing an estimated $3 billion.  There would also be a separate commuter rail network linking New Orleans with the capital at Baton Rouge and other cities along the Gulf Coast, although this is considered a long-term project.  Light rail transit would be a unifying force within the city, according to the commission, connecting neighborhoods with each other and with the airport, downtown and other commercial centers.  Residential and business development would be clustered around stations.  The commission report envisions LRT lines on Elysian Fields Avenue, Canal Boulevard, South Claiborne Avenue, St. Claude Avenue and Chef Menteur Highway.  However, other recommendations contained in the sweeping but non-binding plan, including a deadline for the start rebuilding, have generated intense opposition from residents.  Much of the plan, including LRT, must be approved by Washington, which will provide substantial funding.  Thus, it’s far too early to determine which proposals — if any — will ultimately be adopted. 

Power from Boston

Streetcars may be running the full length of Canal Street by the start of Mardi Gras thanks to the loan of a portable electric substation by Boston’s MBTA.  The unit, mounted on a 60-ft. (18.3 meter) trailer, was purchased by the MBTA in 1984 for emergency backup but has been unused for years.  The New Orleans Regional Transit Authority (NORTA), needing temporary replacements for its hurricane-battered traction power system, went on a nationwide search for equipment.  The MBTA was the only agency with a transportable substation that could provide the 600-volt power used by NORTA’s streetcars.  “In this case, age was on our side,” MBTA general manager Daniel A. Grabauskas told The Boston Globe.  He was referring to both the Boston and New Orleans transit systems, which date back to the early days of electrification.  The three-transformer unit was sent to a firm in Virginia for some maintenance work and was due in New Orleans by Feb. 4.  If the substation is needed back in Boston, it can be returned on five days notice.  NORTA hopes to restore service on both the full Canal Street line and the branch to City Park.  Streetcar service began on the Riverfront Line and along a portion of Canal last Dec. 18. 

Web site: www.norta.com


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