Baton Rouge to New Orleans Passenger Train: When to Begin Operations, Route Details, More
Canadian Pacific Railway has pledged to provide a passenger train route between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, Mayor LaToya Cantrell announced in early December.
So what can Louisianans expect from the long-awaited project?
When could operations begin?
Fortunately, there is already a freight route that runs along the same track as the proposed passenger line. The infrastructure is already in place and the passenger route could start making one round trip per day late next year.
However, the timing of the full service launch depends on how quickly Canadian Pacific can complete its merger with Kansas City Southern, which currently owns the track over which the line would run.
The Baton Rouge Area Foundation plans to ask the Canadian Pacific if he can start his journeys before the merge is complete, but the track still needs to be inspected before the passenger lines can operate.
How will it work?
Baton Rouge Area Foundation Executive Vice President John Spain said additional daily round trips will be added based on the number of passengers using the service and upgrades to the existing infrastructure of Track. At night, the route is expected to be used for freight transport.
The route would begin near the Electric Depot in downtown Baton Rouge and end in downtown New Orleans, about a block from the Superdome. There will be stops at small towns along the route, including LaPlace and Gonzales, and near economic hubs, including the Mall of Louisiana and Louis Armstrong International Airport (MSY).
Some of the track’s current infrastructure, including the Bonnet Carré Spillway rail bridge, is not equipped to handle trains exceeding 10 miles per hour. Spain said that after updating the old wooden bridges along the route, the train should maintain a pace of 80 miles per hour. Infrastructure upgrades are also one of Canadian Pacific’s conditions for supporting the expansion of passenger travel along the route.
MSY officials supported Place a train terminus near the airport’s new Union Passenger Terminal, near Caesars Superdome. Spain said this would require a new lane to be put in place, but it would allow smooth “multimodal” travel in the style of European transport.
In a statement, Cantrell said the rail line “will expand regional transportation and employment opportunities, and may provide an additional mode of evacuation from predicted storms.”
“This is a win-win situation for our entire region, connecting communities through transformative infrastructure projects and improving public safety as we continue to experience faster and more intense storms,” Cantrell said.
More than 200,000 passengers are expected to use the line each year. Besides its usefulness as an escape option, the line is expected to help those commuting between Baton Rouge and New Orleans for work and those traveling to and from Louis Armstrong International Airport.
Who pays for this?
The initial funding will come in part from the Federal Infrastructure Investment and Job Creation Act which was enacted last month. The bill includes $66 billion in funding for rail infrastructure nationwide.
Officials plan to request a portion of these funds to upgrade the infrastructure needed for the passenger route to become fully operational.
Spain said the passenger train would come from Amtrak, which receives some of its funding from state and federal grants. He added that the passenger fare should cover 50% to 60% of the operation of the route.
Will it work this time?
The passenger line has the support of the new track operator, local officials and several regional foundations in Baton Rouge and New Orleans.
Kansas City Southern does not operate passenger train lines, but Canadian Pacific has strong working relationships with Amtrak passenger train services in other parts of the country.
There’s also the $66 billion federal infrastructure bill earmarked for intercity rail projects, and former New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu is leading the disbursement of those funds.
Former Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal derailed the plans in 2009, despite support for the project from members of his administration, refuse $300 million in funding for a passenger train route between the state’s two largest cities, calling it an “unnecessary expense.” But on Friday Governor John Bel Edwards said he made “absolutely committed to working with the freight and passenger community” during a meeting with Canadian Pacific executives.
“The stars have really aligned,” said Spain.
Spain has said that Canadian Pacific has an interest in developing this route so that it can use the track for freight trains at night to transport Canadian crude oil through the port of New Orleans. As part of the merger with Kansas City Southern, Canadian Pacific will further expand its rail network to ports in the United States and Mexico, creating “the first true North American railroad,” as the Spain.