- Understands “the importance of tourism to the city”
- No funding for this line; RTA staff looking at federal dollars as well as other creative financing options
- Introduced Julianne Dryer (sp?), FTA representative present at the meeting. She will hopefully help RTA cut through red tape regarding financing the Convention Center line.
- Small Starts and PPP initiatives will be studied as financing options.
Winsome Bowen (HDR)
Provided basic update, summary of environmental analyses, engineering highlights. Notable remarks:
- A traffic analysis conducted by HDR showed that a significantly larger segment of the population would take streetcar if it ran along Convention Center Boulevard (CC Blvd.) instead of the Riverfront line that currently exists.
- HDR recommended that RTA consider uncanopied stops along CC Blvd. to protect historical viewsheds.
- A new traffic light was recommended at Girod and CC Blvd., as well as a left turn light leading drivers from Girod onto CC Blvd.
- HDR recommends grade crossing protection where the line runs into the New Orleans Public Belt Railroad.
- No traffic lanes will be taken out for CC streetcar ROW construction. Instead, the streetcar will share the innermost lane heading towards the CBD on the CC side of CC Blvd.
- Estimated project cost is $49-53M, with a 20% contingency cost included in this estimate.
- An FTA decision on final design documents is expected Sept-Oct 2011. The 30-day public review of the EA is expected to begin June 1.
Public Comments / Questions
- Asked RTA to consider another connection point between the CC and Riverfront lines at Andrew Higgins, which would provide further connectivity to the arts and entertainment district.
- Asked why RTA is not considering a connection point down St. Joseph instead of Girod.
- HDR responded that Girod’s land use pattern is more conducive to foot traffic and thus streetcar use.
- Hornbrook objected, stating that the only supportive land use is one restaurant, not much else.
- HDR replied that given they are only at 30% DD, they can entertain other options of turning points and will take his comment into consideration.
- Asked RTA for exact timetables, particularly at connection spurts. Streetcars work in a delicate system and he wants to see how all lines will coordinate.
- RTA responded that bus timing transfers and streetcar timing is something that will be worked on as the plans and designs develop.
- Bennett feels that there is limited potential for TOD in this area despite streetcar plans; he feels that everything that is built up now or that will be built in the future will continue to remain at the same density and land use pattern.
- Bennett wants to see the CC shuttles relinquish some of their service so that the streetcar makes a bigger impact. He feels that the CC doesn’t really support the streetcar unless it makes these sorts of gestures: giving up parking, giving up shuttles, essentially moving people to use streetcars from the CC side.
- Why is there not a planned Poydras stop along the CC route?
- RTA responded that DPW and the city have concerns regarding the efficient operation of vehicular traffic if a stop is too close to Pydras. They added that the stops are not set in stone however.
- Is there anything else being done to reduce noise and vibration damage other than special tracks at turns?
- HDR responded that extra work is not necessary, since all vibration and noise is dispersed with these minor interventions.
- Represents shuttle bus drivers near CC, is opposed to the new route, wants to know who the intended riders are and how much patronage would be taken away from his business.
- HDR responded that an early transportation analysis showed that 70% of the CC loop users would be locals going to work, and that the streetcar would not have the capacity to fulfill total demand. Shuttles still seen as a necessity.
- Instead of building a new streetcar one block away from the existing Riverfront line, the gentleman recommended expanding the Riverfront line instead. This would mean extending the track to Henderson, creating an additional stop at Mardi Gras World, reworking stops along the route to make them ADA and publically accessible, installing a transit- and pedestrian-oriented exit from the CC to the Riverfront streetcar (making it more legible), installing a river observation deck and cafe near that exit to attract people, taking the streetcar line and adding an up-river direction so it could return to Canal Street, and finally connecting the entire system up at Howard to St. Charles and Loyola lines.
- As a representative of the Marriott, this gentleman approves this project. He supports it because it is not just tourists but hospitality workers and those seeking jobs in hospitality that need transportation to the CC area.
- Asked if streets in the general vicinity of the CC will be switched back to 2-way streets.
- RTA responded that it would have to discuss this with DPW and the city, but are considering this option in their studies of the line.
- Asked RTA to consider funding from Cruise Ship terminal.
- RTA has considered this.
- Asked why the passageway / skywalk from CC Blvd. to the riverfront and Riverfront streetcar line is out of service.
- Bob Johnson replied that it was a series of financial, legal and permitting issues that closed the skywalk down, as well as the fact that it leads from “nowhere to nowhere” in his opinion (from a parking lot to the cruise terminal).
- Bob added that all future development of New Orleans will all happen upriver, mentioning the Power Plant redevelopment, Worlds Fair buildings, and Convention Center renovations as major projects. Given this, he wants to see the CC Blvd. line and CC streetscaping create a driving force for future development up river.
- Why not put the streetcar on the other side of CC Blvd. so that people can leave the CBD / city more easily?
- Why haven’t 2-way tracks been considered for both the Riverfront and CC lines?