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New Orleans - July 2009

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New Orleans — RTA to Seek Federal Funding

Rail Transit Online, July 2009

The Regional Transit Authority board of directors has followed a staff recommendation and voted to seek $150 million in federal funding for three proposed new streetcar lines. Planning for all three is almost finished and public hearings have been held.

RTA Chairman Cesar Burgos said the agency should package the three new lines as a single project to take advantage of the Obama administration's Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery, or TIGER, program. "Everything is lining up for us," Burgos told the Times-Picayune. "And the chances that we'll get this opportunity again are slim to none." The deadline to submit TIGER applications is Sept. 15.

The proposed alignments, costing about $150 million, would connect to the Canal Street Line and include:

• Union Passenger Terminal/Howard Avenue loop from existing tracks at Lee Circle to Loyola Avenue and Canal Street, 1.5 mi. (2.4 km);

• French Quarter/Press Street loop with a spur on Elysian Fields Avenue, 6.2 mi. (10 km);

• Convention Center Boulevard loop serving the convention center and its hotel district, 1.8 mi. (2.9 km).

To avoid having its grant request split up, the RTA won't prioritize the three lines.

The board has also voted unanimously to authorize a team of consultants to negotiate a final contract with Veolia Transportation to operate the agency's streetcars and buses for five years with a five-year extension option. The deal will cost the RTA $56.3 million annually, with Veolia covering all costs related to salaries, benefits and operations.

Veolia has been operating the system for the past nine months under several interim contracts; a permanent deal had been stymied by a lack of agreement on how to handle the RTA's underfinanced employee pension plan.

Ridership is now just 30 percent of pre-Hurricane Katrina levels and damage from the storm is still being repaired. Starting July 6, the Canal Streetcar was shut down for eight weeks to allow replacement of underground electrical feeder cables.


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