Parish signs on for railway linking Baton Rouge, New Orleans

A railway that would pass through St. Charles Parish and connect Baton Rouge to New Orleans and the Louis Armstrong International Airport is only a parish away from coming to fruition.

St. Charles Parish became the latest parish to join the Louisiana Intrastate Rail Compact (LIRC) when the Parish Council unanimously approved the parish’s involvement last Monday.

Studies completed when the Louisiana Legislature passed the 2010 act that allowed for the planning of the railway anticipated construction costs near $450 million and operation expenses of $11 million per year. Grants from the Federal Railroad Administration should cover $210 million.

The proposed stops on the railway would include the Amtrak station in New Orleans, the Louis Armstrong International Airport, LaPlace, Gonzales and two stops in Baton Rouge. It would serve a population of 1.4 million.

Top speed for the train would be 79 miles per hour. The service would run twice daily with an estimated fare of $10 each way.

Because the railway is expected to use the elevated train tracks running under I-310 near Lake Pontchartrain, there would be no stop in St. Charles Parish.

LIRC would have the ability to expropriate land from the communities it passes through, use tax incentives and ask local voters for tax monies through ballot referendums.

Buddy Boe, chief administrative officer for the parish, said the railway would help the local workforce.

“While we wouldn’t have a stop in St. Charles, we would absolutely be nearby two other locations and anticipate River Parish Transit Authority being a vital link between our residents and workers in our industrial facilities and the proposed rail system,” he said.

Every parish that is part of LIRC is allowed four local representatives and as part of the resolution the Parish Council nominated Councilwoman Traci Fletcher as well as Boe, Planning and Zoning Director Kim Marousek and Valero Communication Director Taryn Rogers.

“The makeup of the members for each parish would be different. Some are much more administrative heavy, some are a blend of business industry and council. So that is what we wanted to do was have a blend of business, administrative and council. So that is what we did is have industry, administrative and council representation,” Boe said.

Having an industrial representative on the compact was very important, according to Boe.

“The reason we wanted industry on the board is because in the River Region we really do think that industry binds us through our RPTA system and allowing their employees to ride passenger rail will be a vital way to make sure that attendance and usage of the system makes the system viable and provides it with enough revenue,” he said.

St. James Parish is the only parish that the railway would run through that has not yet joined LIRC.


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