RTA gives media preview ride on new streetcar line - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports

RTA gives media preview ride on new streetcar line

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Streetcar operator gives rides to members of the local media Friday. Streetcar operator gives rides to members of the local media Friday.

New Orleans, La. — By mid-morning it was a sound outside the Union Passenger Terminal that has been 18 months in the making. A streetcar was rumbling along a track.

"It's a huge addition to this city, a great benefit for our riders, and just something exciting for the visitors who will be coming in for the Super Bowl," said Patrice Bell-Mercadel, spokeswoman for the Regional Transit Authority.

Only days ago construction crews were completing the $53 million Loyola Avenue streetcar project. The federal government kicked in most of the funding through a $45 million grant.

And now, more than a week before tens of thousands of Super Bowl visitors converge on the city, the RTA is ready to welcome them, hoping "that they take away that this city is not just rebuilding itself, it's recreating the face of what this community is," said Bell-Mercadel.

Friday's ride was for members of the local media; come Monday, after a huge ceremony, the Loyola line will pick up the general public.

"We'll be having multiple bus lines from the RTA system connect to the Loyola Avenue line at the Union Passenger Terminal.  And then in addition to that, those visitors coming in via Amtrak or Greyhound can hop right on an RTA streetcar and access their downtown hotels," said Bell-Mercadel.

When riders get to Canal Street they can connect with streetcars moving up and down the popular thoroughfare and travel to other parts of the city.

"So someone starting their journey at the Union Passenger Terminal can actually board the Loyola Avenue streetcar line and select whether they'd like to connect to the Canal Street [line] and go downtown and go to the riverfront, or they can go toward the cemeteries and connect to the systems out there.  Or we can also take you to City Park, just by getting on board at Loyola," said Bell-Mercadel.

The RTA has also installed state-of-the-art shelters along the Loyola Avenue street carline.  "They have fans to give our riders a little cool breeze in the heat of the summer. They have interactive screens that will give them updates on all of the different lines," Bell-Mercadel further stated.

There has already been a lot of economic development downtown in anticipation of the new streetcar line, and more is expected.

"To me it's just wonderful because it links this area of the city," said Chris Ycaza, general manager of the newly-opened Little Gems Saloon, at the corner of Loyola Avenue and Poydras Street.

"We all feel good about it prompting locals to this end of the city, but I think there's no doubt in our minds that the tourists are going to embrace this.  What's more New Orleans than the streetcar line?  And to have it run right past our doorsteps is a wonderful thing in our minds," Ycaza said.

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