Tuesday, May 13, 2014

End of the line

Old Streetcar ties

That there is a pile of old and rotting rail ties removed from the St. Charles Streetcar line earlier this month.  Don't look so hot, do they?  A quarter century ago, though, those were supposedly the top of the line product.
The wooden cross-ties have not been replaced since 1988, when the RTA undertook a $47 million program to renovate the St. Charles line's cars and replace all 13 miles of track and track bed. That project was the first complete overhaul of the line, which began operating in the mid-1830s.

At the time, the agency used azobe, a tropical hardwood that officials described as the longest-lasting option available, one that would preclude major repairs for at least two decades.

RTA officials say termite and weather-related damage has taken a toll on the cross-ties which are showing signs of breakage and rotting that could pose a threat to safety.

This time, the RTA will use a recycled plastic composite that transit executives say has become the industry standard.
Insert your preferred purple prose about New Orleans and its beautiful decay here, if you like.  Or, if you prefer, you can substitute an equally acceptable sarcastic remark about the termites or the climate or the fact that nothing works.  If you want to be really pretentious you could pull a quote from somewhere.
I came upon a boiler wallowing in the grass, then found a path leading up the hill. It turned aside for the boulders, and also for an undersized railway-truck lying there on its back with its wheels in the air. One was off. The thing looked as dead as the carcass of some animal. I came upon more pieces of decaying machinery, a stack of rusty rails. To the left a clump of trees made a shady spot, where dark things seemed to stir feebly.
In any case, I take it this is a pile of the new stuff. 

Streetcar ties

I actually don't go in for the popular schmaltz that romanticizes New Orleans as some dysfunctional pseudo-"third world" tableu vivant. So I don't think it's uniquely charming that a project like this would run behind schedule.  Rather it's just the normal course of events.  Unforseen complications arise. A dispute with a contractor causes delays. Neighbors complain, weather happens. Nothing ever gets done on time but that's okay because nothing is really supposed to.

Besides, the end of this project is clearly within sight. I could stand to be corrected on this point but, as far as I can tell,  the stretch of St. Charles between Louisiana and Jackson is all  that remains to be done and work there is currently underway.  Also there's this statement from RTA back in December. 
A spokeswoman said the entire project is scheduled to wrap up by the end of April, when presumably the buses once again will disappear from St. Charles
So they're pretty close to it now. That's pretty good, all things considered.  Trusting sort that I am, I'm going to assume that, since 2011 when this story was written, they've worked this bit out as well.
While the crossties are nearing the end of their useful lifespan, Augustine said, the track will remain functional for several years. The more critical issue, he said, is a requirement that much of the federal grant money being used for the project must be spent by 2013.
Probably depends on what they meant by "much of."   Either way it's good to see this is about done so we can get back to watching them tear up all the other roads Uptown for the SELA project.

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