In New Orleans, LaHood $280 Million in Bus and Streetcar Grants

During a visit to New Orleans, where city planners are seeking
nearly $100 million in federal stimulus money for three new streetcar
lines, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today announced plans to
award $280 million in grants for streetcar and bus networks.

large_streetcar.red.JPGNew Orleans is counting on bonds, backed by sales taxes, to finance new streetcar lines. Photo: Times-Picayune

The
grants, set to be awarded this spring, do not require new spending —
the money will come from unallocated funding lawmakers have already
approved for transit New Starts and buses, according to a statement released by the U.S. DOT.

The
streetcar and bus investments are being depicted as the first phase in
the Obama administration’s inter-agency sustainable communities partnership, headed by longtime transit advocate Shelley Poticha. The legislation officially starting that push, which would also authorize $4 billion for transit-oriented development projects, has yet to see action in Congress.

“Fostering the concept of livability in transportation projects will
stimulate America’s neighborhoods to become safer, healthier and more
vibrant," LaHood said in a statement on the grants.

The
money is set to be divided into two parts. The first would award $130
million to streetcars and "urban circulators," with a focus on
proposals that promote mixed-use development in local neighborhoods. No
project can win more than $25 million from that pot, however, which
would provide about 12 percent of the funding New Orleans needs for its
ambitious streetcar expansion plan.

The second $150 million group of bus grants would go to proposals that "provide access to jobs, healthcare, and
education, and/or contribute to the redevelopment of neighborhoods into
pedestrian-friendly vibrant environments," the U.S. DOT said in its announcement.

As
part of his trip to New Orleans, the first leg of a nationwide
transportation tour, LaHood toured local transit stations that were hit
by Hurricane Katrina. He stopped by the Union Passenger Terminal (home of the Amtrak Crescent line) and the Willow Street barn, wh

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