While the game plans are still being developed by teams inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, the Regional Transit Authority crossed its own "goal line" with the opening of the UPT-Loyola Streetcar today.
Federal, state and local officials gathered for festivities at the New Orleans Union Passenger Terminal (NOUPT), followed by an inaugural ride to Canal Street with celebratory stops along the way. Local schools were showcased with entertainment by the McDonogh #35 High School Choir, the Pledge of Allegiance led by students from the nearby Dryades YMCA/James M. Singleton Charter School and the national anthem by the acclaimed St. Augustine Marching 100 Band. Upon their return to the UPT, the guests on the streetcars enjoyed music by Delfeayo Marsalis and the Uptown Orchestra.
U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood addressed the audience on behalf of the Obama Administration. "We are committed to helping New Orleans modernize its historic streetcar line, which has become an important catalyst for revitalizing the downtown business and tourist districts," he said.
LaHood referenced the $2 billion in economic development projects in and around the corridor stating, "The Obama Administration will continue investing in good transportation projects like this one that keep our economy moving forward."
Other speakers included Cong. Cedric Richmond, City Council President Stacy Head and Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff.
"Our streetcars are an integral part of this city's rich culture and history so today truly is a day for celebration," said Congressman Richmond. "These transit upgrades are a vital investment for the residents, commuters and businesses in the city of New Orleans. I am thankful for President Obama and Secretary LaHood's commitment in seeing this project through to fruition and will continue to use my voice and vote in Congress as an advocate for even further investments in Louisiana's infrastructure."
The $53 million streetcar project is funded primarily through a TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) competitive grant, which funds innovative projects with significant economic and environmental benefits for the surrounding community and region. The funds were used to construct 1.6 miles of track and specialized turn-out tracks at the UPT and at Canal Street and eight state-of-the-art, solar-powered transit shelters that include video kiosks for schedule information. The project also includes relocation and replacement of underground utilities, road paving and striping and landscaping.
"Streetcars are one of the things that make our city unique, and the Loyola line has breathed new life into our transportation system and created opportunities for development and a better quality of life for our residents," said Mayor Mitch Landrieu. "You can literally see the economic impact this project has made, and how it will offer greater connectivity to the rest of the city. This is a model for the nation; New Orleans can leverage federal dollars and complete projects that reflect well on us and on the rest of America."
The mayor, who served as Master of Ceremonies, introduced RTA Board Chairwoman Barbara C. Major, who stated that the project is important to the community in many ways, but transportation for its residents is at the heart of it.
"We are excited about this project, and what it has done, not just for the RTA system but for the future of our city," said RTA Board Chairwoman Barbara C. Major. "It proves that public transit works on many levels, and we at the RTA are committed to ensuring that our residents have safe, efficient and affordable transportation as New Orleans continues to rebuild and renew in a smarter, more sustainable manner."
The next streetcar project in New Orleans is the Rampart Street/St. Claude Expansion, which will serve the French Quarter and Marigny neighborhoods and connect to the new Loyola Streetcar line at Canal Street. The 1.8 mile line will initially terminate at Elysian Fields Avenue. The project is in the final design stage, and construction is expected to begin in late 2013.
For more information visit www.norta.com.