U.S. Department of Transportation makes emergency funds available for streetcars, streamlines Federal transit funding for New Orleans
December 16, 2005, U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta today gave New Orleans transit officials the go-ahead to use federal money to help re-launch streetcar service this weekend and made it easier for the city’s transit agency to use up to $70 million in federal funds to make crucial repairs.
“In September the President made it clear that street cars would once again rumble down New Orleans’ historic streets,” said Secretary Mineta. “We are keeping that promise and adding a vital ingredient in the recipe for the city’s economic recovery.”
The Department’s Federal Transit Administration, with agreement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, is allowing the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority (NORTA) to use federal funds to operate the Riverfront and Canal/French Market Streetcar Lines, Mineta said.
Starting Sunday, eight of the 35 historic streetcars will begin running on the Riverfront Line from the French Market station to the Convention Center Station, and on Canal Street from the Riverfront Line to Crozat Street seven days a week from 6:30 a.m. until 10 p.m. New Orleans’ streetcar service is a national treasure and the centerpiece of the city’s $5 billion a year tourism industry, Mineta noted. Putting the streetcars back in service will make it easier for residents to get to work and give visitors a chance to visit more of the city, the Secretary added.
Secretary Mineta also announced that the Department will defer NORTA’s local match requirement for federal transit funds for five years. This means the agency can begin buying supplies, repairing buses and equipment, and rebuilding damaged trolley lines using federal transit money without having to first secure local matching funds.
“The deferral recognizes the city’s immediate need for transit service and puts tens of millions of dollars to work right away,” Mineta said, noting that NORTA currently has $70 million in FTA grants available. Because of the deferral, the transit agency will have five years to pay the local share of approximately $18 million. This will give NORTA increased flexibility as it addresses the most immediate needs to help improve the current public transportation system in New Orleans.
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