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New Orleans - March 2011

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New Orleans — Loyola Streetcar Dispute Resolved

Rail Transit Online, March 2011

March 2 - The New Orleans Regional Transit Authority's Loyola Avenue streetcar project has been cleared for construction after a disagreement with the city council over the location of tracks and two stations was resolved.

The 1.5-mi. (2.4 km), $45-million Union Passenger Terminal/Howard Avenue loop from Lee Circle to Loyola Avenue and the Canal Street Line was fully funded last year by the federal government. However, in November four council members sent a sharply-worded letter to the RTA claiming the agency had ignored their suggestions and "valuable public input" suggesting the tracks be placed in a lane reserved for streetcars and emergency vehicles.

The four also disagreed with the location of proposed stops at the railroad and bus stations and with an RTA plan to terminate some bus service, forcing passengers to the streetcars instead. The dispute could have jeopardized the federal grant, but the council members quickly sent a letter to the Federal Transit Administration explaining that their comments should not be interpreted as a "justification for a finding of significant impact" that would delay the money.

In late February the city-owned corporation that operates the railroad station and the RTA finally agreed to a resolution on how streetcars and buses will enter and leave the facility. A compromise over the track location will place the rails in the neutral ground (median) of Loyola Avenue until it becomes too narrow. The line will then continue in Loyola's regular traffic lanes until it merges with the Canal Street route. The tracks will also be aligned so that a future extension could be built along Howard Avenue to the planned St. Charles Avenue line.

Streetcar Closes for Maintenance

March 16 - A $7-million, two-phase project to replace rotting crossties on the New Orleans St. Charles Avenue streetcar line will begin late this month or early in April, requiring shutdowns lasting into the first quarter of 2012. The ties were last replaced in 1988 and are now beginning to deteriorate from the effects of termite infestation and weather, which could lead to safety issues.

The Regional Transit Authority first plans to close the section from the South Carrollton terminal to Napoleon Avenue until October, then shift the work to the remainder of the route to the junction with the Canal Street line. Buses will substitute for the streetcars during construction, which is being financed by a federal grant. The new ties will be made of a recycled plastic composite that should resist damage from New Orleans' hot, humid climate.

The historic St. Charles line is the city's busiest, with an annual ridership of over 3.1 million. Overall, however, RTA transit hoardings have plunged by 65 percent since Hurricane Katrina.

Streetcar Won't Close for Repairs

March 30 - The New Orleans Regional Transit Authority has decided not to close portions of the historic St. Charles Avenue streetcar line during a $7-million cross tie replacement program. The original plan called for shutting approximately half the line from mid-March to October and the other half from October until early next year, with buses replacing the streetcars.

Following an objection from Mayor Mitch Landrieu's office that not enough notice had been given to the public, the RTA cancelled the initial closure and issued a revised scheme dividing the approximately 13-mi. (20.9 km) line into 11 work areas. While construction is underway on each section, streetcars will be single-tracked around the area using temporary crossovers. The first segment was closed on Mar. 27, with buses supplementing the reduced streetcar frequency as needed.

The ties were last replaced in 1988 but have begun deteriorating from the effects of termite infestation and New Orleans' hot, humid climate. This time, plastic composite material will be used instead of wood.


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