Wednesday, April 24, 2013

New Orleans ponders streetcar expansion

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The general manager of New Orleans' Regional Transit Authority Tuesday set forth a proposal for expanding the Crescent City's venerable streetcar system, though funding for such work was not identified.

RTA General Manager Justin Augustine stressed that the expansion plan was preliminary. "The squiggly lines on the page will change probably a million times before we actually adopt anything," he told local media. "It's not permanent, it's just a concept."

But New Orleans, led in many ways by RTA, has been consistent in its desire to expand its streetcar operations, and has had some success, including the opening of the Loyola Avenue line last January.

Proposed expansion includes a new line along Elysian Fields Avenue from the riverfront to Claiborne Avenue, where it would turn left and link with Canal Street. That line could continue past to Poydras Street past the Superdome and end at the new Loyola Avenue line.

Another new segment would extend the venerable St. Charles Avenue line from where it ends at Carrollton and South Claiborne avenues and bring it to Canal Street.

RTA estimates such expansion would cost more than $800 million in today's dollars. It currently has no funds identified for most proposals, though RTA is moving ahead with the 1.2-mile N. Rampart St. St. Claude Ave. extension, which roughly parallels the Mississippi River.