Report: BR, NOLA train would serve 1.4 million
BATON ROUGE - A feasibility study for a passenger train linking Baton Rouge to New Orleans said the line could be a boon for the 1.4 million people living in parishes between the two cities, and cost far less than initially thought.
The Baton Rouge Area Foundation released the results of the study Tuesday. They said the line could operate on existing freight tracks, and eventually handle twice daily trips with stops in between the metropolitan areas.
The report by HNTB Corporation noted that such a line could serve as an evacuation route during hurricanes, allow riders commuting to work to get things done while they traveled, and be a greater connection for big events such as LSU or Saints games.
One trip end-to-end was estimated to take about one and a half hours, with seven stops along the way. The proposed line would start at a station on Government and South 14th Street in Baton Rouge, and end at the Union Passenger Terminal station near the Superdome where passengers can access the Loyola Avenue streetcar and other transportation.
The report estimated costs to start a passenger rail line at $262 million, but said federal funds would underwrite 80 percent of that. A similar study for the state of Louisiana in 2010 found startup costs would be nearly twice that, but HNTB said that study covered a train operating at higher speeds than the one they recommended.
The costs would include upgrading crossings and strengthening bridges along existing rail owned by Kansas City Southern and Canandian National. The most expensive portion would be the $62.1 million replacement of the wooden Bonnet Carre Spillway bridge, which trains currently have to cross at 10 miles per hour.
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