New Orleans — Streetcar Extensions Debated
Rail Transit Online, June 2009
Three proposed extensions to the New Orleans Regional Transit
Authority's streetcar system are being studied by consultant HDR
Engineering, with a recommendation due in August on which project to build first. Officials and business leaders must decide whether they want the new routes to primarily serve tourists or residents and whether any are affordable, although more federal funding is now available for streetcars.
The proposed alignments are:
• Union Passenger Terminal/Howard Avenue loop from existing tracks at Lee Circle to Loyola Avenue and the Canal Street line;
• A French Quarter/Elysian Fields Avenue/Press Street loop;
• Convention Center Boulevard loop
along the Mississippi Riverfront
serving the convention center and its hotel district.
None of the city's major players, including the RTA, the Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Downtown Development District and the Regional Planning Commission, have committed to any of the routes.
Transport for NOLA, a local
transit advocacy group, prefers a combination of the UPT/Howard Avenue and French Quarter routes but would accept either one. Jeff Schwartz, an urban planner who works with the group, told New Orleans CityBusiness that the Convention Center loop would serve few residents and only a small number of tourists and would essentially duplicate the Riverfront Line. But a ridership forecast model prepared
by HDR shows the Convention Center line would attract 2,700 daily boardings, more than either of the other two loops.
The cost of the $1.4-million study is coming from a 2003 federal grant
to examine a 2.9-mi.(4.7 km) extension along North Rampart Street and St. Claude Avenue, a proposal that's now apparently dormant. Should RTA move ahead with any of the schemes, it will apply for federal money, may issue municipal bonds and could seek private-sector capital.
Fleet Repairs Reach Milestone
Restoration of the replica heritage streetcar fleet has now been underway for 13 months, with Brookville Equipment Corp. employees having installed new electrical cabinets, control stands,
wiring harnesses, and complete truck assemblies on 24 of the 31 Canal Street and Riverfront vehicles damaged by Hurricane Katrina.
On-site installation of the propulsion
systems will continue until September but complete restoration by Carrollton shop forces will continue until mid-2010. Many of the replicas have already returned to revenue service on the Canal Street line.