Rail to link New Orleans-Baton Rouge?

July 16, 2015

A dedicated passenger train from Baton Rouge to New Orleans is a ghost that mass transit advocates have chased for more than four decades.

Losing ground to jets and highways, travel by train has been called many things. Inefficient. Expensive. Unprofitable. For all those perceptions, the last regular train carrying travelers between southeast Louisiana’s largest cities made a final, nostalgic run in November 1969.

Times have changed. Ten years after the greatest disaster southeast Louisiana has ever seen, the region is growing. People are moving into urban centers. New businesses are gauging opportunities along the Mississippi River. Demand for skilled labor is rising. And Gov. Bobby Jindal, who blocked the last attempt at an intercity commuter line, is leaving office.

“Sitting here today, I’d be willing to place a serious bet that within three to five years, we will be able to board a train between Baton Rouge and New Orleans and work, read, sleep in convenience and safety as we traverse the southeast super region,” said Michael Hecht, president and CEO of the regional economic development group Greater New Orleans Inc.

A Baton Rouge-New Orleans passenger line, especially one that swings by Louis Armstrong International Airport, has become a linchpin for elected officials and business leaders looking to tighten the economic connections among seven parishes along that route: the “super region” that Hecht identified.

Rail travel has become more attractive nationally, not only because of the rising popularity of public transit, but also because of its advocates’ beliefs it can be an economic engine. That became more pronounced after the Great Recession.


Read the full story by Richard Rainey at NOLA.com by clicking here.

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