Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Third time is the charm

The St. Charles Streetcar is coming back.  You may have heard this before, though.

After Katrina, for example, it was out of service for two years as extensive repairs were done to the overhead power system.  When it re-opened, the Warren Easton Marching Band was enlisted to herald its return. I'd never seen a band march on the neutral ground before.

Streetcar return 2007

But that only lasted a few short years before it was determined that the whole line would need to be dug back up in order to replace rotting rail ties.

Old Streetcar ties

This project only took three years to complete.
The original idea was to do the upriver half of the line, between South Claiborne and Napoleon avenues, followed by the downriver half, from Napoleon Avenue to Canal Street, with the whole project wrapping up by early 2012. Things did not go as forecast.

The contractor hired to handle the $7 million project almost immediately walked off the job, bringing all work to a halt for a few months. Then, once it resumed, the task turned out to take far longer than expected, and the project was split into multiple phases. 

Third Street barricade

Rail work

But even then, a few short months later, they had to go dig right back in.
Streetcar service through the Uptown area will be interrupted in three phases over the summer in order to accommodate the SELA drainage project, RTA officials told Carrollton residents on Monday night. 
 And so all summer (the tourism offseason, btw) nobody could get across any of the major intersections of St. Charles without hassle.

SELA at Louisiana and St Charles

And, of course, no streetcars ventured out of the first ward.

Do not proceed

Uptown residents, well used now to disappointment,  heard the promise that rail work would finally end in early September and hunkered down for news of an extension.

But then today, things are looking up.
Streetcar service along the entire length of St. Charles Avenue is to be restored this weekend, according to the Army Corps of Engineers.

Just don't expect similar relief from construction sites for drivers on New Orleans' storied thoroughfare.

Crews are just about finished installing sections of three new drainage canals below the streetcar tracks that cross Jefferson, Napoleon and Louisiana avenues. But work on the canals will continue underneath the adjacent road pavement for the next few months, requiring drivers to still shift lanes across the neutral ground.

The streetcar should start carrying passengers Sunday from Canal Street clear to the end of the line at South Carrollton and Claiborne avenues, the corps announced Wednesday (Sept. 2) on behalf of the Regional Transit Authority.
Don't get too too excited.  The Uptown Demilitarized Zone is still very much in effect. SELA is not expected to be complete until 2018 (at the earliest.) But just the notion that one small part of the project can finish on time should give some folks some hope.   Maybe we should schedule a parade.

Streetcar parade

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