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New Orleans - June 2000

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New Orleans – Alternate Terminal

Rail Transit Online, June 2000

The Regional Transit Authority is preparing a substitute plan for the outer terminal of the proposed $153 million Canal Street trolley line because it has been unable so far to buy or lease 3.5-acres south of City Park Avenue between Canal Street and Interstate 10. An elaborate intermodal facility with eight bus bays had been planned for the site to permit seamless transfer. To reach the $5.5 million terminal, streetcars would have turned onto City Park Avenue for a short distance between Canal Street and the Interstate. But the Firemen's Charitable and Benevolent Association of New Orleans, which owns the tract, and the RTA haven’t been able to reach agreement. The transit agency is now proposing to terminate the streetcar line in a new 22-foot-wide neutral ground in the center of Canal Street, and in early May held public hearings on the design change as required by federal law. The new scenario would use an existing bus stop on City Park Avenue, requiring passengers to cross busy Canal Street. Another change, designed to cut the project’s cost, calls for storing, cleaning and maintaining the Canal cars in the RTA's existing A. Philip Randolph Operations Facility instead of at a new $20 million, 11-acre facility on St. Louis Street as originally proposed. That plan would have required a yard lead to be built along Galvez Street.

Meanwhile, collection of a one percent sales tax on hotel and motel rooms that will pay the local share of the Canal project has been delayed two months until July. The hospitality industry last February had agreed not to contest the levy after it was decided that some of the proceeds would be used to promote tourism and expand the convention center (see RTOL, Mar. 2000). However, 16 hotels and one industry organization later raised questions about the legality of the deal brokered by New Orleans Mayor Marc Morial. On May 2 the opponents agreed to drop their resistance and the final consent decree is now being drawn up. 

Trolley Financing

A critical move in obtaining funding for the restoration of streetcars to Canal Street was expected to be made at a Regional Transit Authority board meeting on May 31. That’s when members were to vote on authorizing a financial consultant to obtain a line of credit for the 20 percent local share in advance of a June 30 deadline set by the FTA. This would release more than $100 million in federal grants that have already been approved for the $156.6 million project. It was only recently that an agreement was finally reached to provide the local share from the proceeds of a new sales tax on hotel and motel rooms. The RTA continues to operate at a deficit, which could make finding investors more difficult, although the tax deal could mitigate questions about the agency’s financial situation because it provides a dedicated income stream. “I believe we've finally overcome all of the legal impediments that were preventing us from going forward with the financing of this project,” RTA Chairman Robert Tucker told the Times-Picayune newspaper. “I'm not quite ready to say we're there, but we're almost there.” If everything goes as planned, RTA officials said they could begin advertising for bids on track work and the components for 23 new cars that will be assembled by local shop forces (see following news item). The Carrollton Barn will also be renovated to make room for the work. However, given the project’s recent history, the RTA is being very cautious and won’t predict a completion date. But it has been revealed that construction will be broken into three phases, with the first stretching from Baronne Street to the 2800 block of Canal, location of the A. Philip Randolph Operations Facility where the cars would be stored and maintained. The track would then be extended to the Cemeteries at City Park Avenue followed by phase three, a spur on North Carrollton Avenue to Beauregard Circle.

The trucks and controls for the new cars may not be coming from CKD in the Czech Republic as anticipated.  CKD supplied eight sets several years ago when the RTA remanufactured one Perley-Thomas car and rebuilt six for the Riverfront line. Another car, No. 2001, was also fabricated from scratch as a prototype for the Canal Street Line. The company is suffering severe financial problems – it’s about $300 million in debt – and is downsizing its once extensive operations. The RTA is now seriously seeking alternate suppliers and has requested Letters of Interest from qualified vendors to supply 25 PCC sets. Several German firms have reportedly responded, including one group that would purchase used Tatra PCC trucks in eastern Europe and recondition them for the RTA. It’s hoped to begin series production of the Canal cars next February, with subcontractors manufacturing major body components such as side and roof assemblies. Everything else would be built at Carrollton, where final assembly and fitting out would take place using bays at the far end of the building. Additional workers would first have to be hired and trained.


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