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Study: Operating passenger rail service between Baton Rouge-New Orleans would cost $262M

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BATON ROUGE, Louisiana — A study finds startup costs for a passenger train linking Baton Rouge and New Orleans on existing freight tracks would be $262 million with federal funds underwriting up to 80 percent of that amount.

The study by HNTB Corp. said the cost is substantially less than the $448 million estimated in a 2010 study for the state of Louisiana.

"Our reaction is very positive," said John Spain, executive vice president of the Baton Rouge Area Foundation, one of the groups that commissioned the HNTB study. "There is a lot of interest in a passenger train and still a lot of support."

HNTB performed the study for BRAF, the Capital Region Planning Commission and the New Orleans Regional Planning Commission.

The Advocate reports (http://bit.ly/Nttdkr ) HNTB advised leasing trains instead of purchasing them to reduce upfront capital costs. Tickets could be as low as $10 each way. Ridership for twice daily service is estimated at 210,000 in the first year, HNTB said. The service would include stops in between the two cities, and could ultimately grow to more frequent service with a possible station near the New Orleans International Airport.

The earlier plan recommended rail improvements for speeds of up to 110 miles per hour.

HNTB recommends intercity passenger rail operations with maximum speeds of 79 mph, a rate that it said is competitive with car travel.

"With the length of the route and the multiple stops, 79 miles per hour is more than adequate," Spain said.

A trip would take 95 minutes, with seven stops on the route. A morning and afternoon train for commuters would start in each of the two cities on similar schedules.

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said the study shows that passenger rail in south Louisiana is possible.

"Passenger rail will cut travel time, reduce congestion, attract economic development for the entire region, create new jobs and unite two great cities," he said. "Smart, reliable transportation is essential to building a stronger Louisiana."


Information from: The Advocate, http://theadvocate.com

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