Work To Begin On New Streetcar Line In New Orleans

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Work is expected to begin this month on a new streetcar line in New Orleans that will run through a historic corridor that stretches downriver from the French Quarter.

         The city's Regional Transit Authority recently announced plans to start work on the line after years of planning and debate.

         Justin Augustine, the agency's general manager, told The New Orleans Advocate’s Andrew Vanacore that the project will take about two years to complete once the work starts. The newspaper reports that the main phase of construction will be paid for with $41.5 million from a 2010 bond sale.

         The new line will run from Canal Street to Elysian Fields Avenue running along Rampart Street and St. Claude Avenue. Officials hope the line will spur economic development along the corridor.

         "We're hoping with all of our projects that we spur economic development," Augustine said. He said the new line touches five historic neighborhoods — the French Quarter, Iberville, the Treme, the Marigny and the Upper 9th Ward.

         The new Rampart line is one part of a $3.5 billion, long-term spending program at the RTA, which includes more than 33 miles worth of new streetcar lines. In all, that expansion would cost more than $900 million, with new lines running along St. Claude to Poland Avenue, along Elysian Fields toward both the lakefront and the riverfront, and connecting Carrollton and Claiborne avenues, among others.

         The new Rampart line is the only section of the expansion that has funding. Augustine said financial advisers hired by the RTA will get to work this month on ideas for financing future projects, whether it means more bonds, federal grants or other sources.

         The tracks on Rampart and St. Claude will run outside of the neutral ground in lanes that streetcars will share with vehicle traffic.

         There will be half a dozen stops sporting specially designed shelters that officials said would be in keeping with the historic neighborhoods nearby.

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