On Tuesday, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today joined Mayor Mitch Landrieu and other New Orleans officials to break ground on the Union Passenger Terminal/Loyola Avenue Streetcar project, which received $45 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act's TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) program last year.
The new streetcar extension is expected to begin service in June 2012.
The new streetcar extension will run through New Orleans' central business district along Loyola Avenue from the Union Passenger Terminal to Canal Street. The Union Passenger Terminal is a major southern hub for Amtrak, with three trains serving the station. The Loyola Avenue corridor is home to significant commercial and business activity, including the city's energy, government, healthcare and financial sectors, as well as many attractions and entertainment.
In addition to breaking ground on the streetcar project, Secretary LaHood said that the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority (RTA) will receive a $400,000 grant from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) to establish a streetcar maintenance training program to assist in hiring and training skilled streetcar maintenance workers.
"Hiring and training the next generation of streetcar workers is critical because these are the people who are going to keep the RTA extension running efficiently and safely day in and day out," said Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff. "These grant awards serve as a shot in the arm for the local economy still in recovery from Hurricane Katrina and hard hit by recent flooding."
RTA also wants to ensure that unemployed and underemployed residents have access to job opportunities created by the TIGER grant and will be working with Delgado Community College to facilitate their training efforts, as well as drawing potential employees from the regional one-stop career center in New Orleans.
RTA's new training program is one of a dozen programs supported by FTA's "Innovative Workforce Development" grants offering support for efforts that improve the state of the practice in workforce development and help address the needs of human capital in the transit industry.