City-parish leaders say a recent trip to review a new streetcar system in Kansas City, Missouri, inspired them as they try to push forward a project to build a tram that would link downtown Baton Rouge and LSU.
The city-parish is charging forward with the plans, asking residents for input and planning the next meeting about the tram for a couple of weeks from now. Mayor-President Kip Holden, Chief Administrative Officer William Daniel and Baton Rouge Area Foundation President and CEO John Davies say the Kansas City model has lingered in their minds since the trip at the end of May.
“It’s about the same size, it’s about the same length, it’s brand new, it’s a few weeks old,” Davies said. “It’s super parallel to what we’re trying to do here.”
Six East Baton Rouge Parish Metro Council members — Buddy Amoroso, Donna Collins-Lewis, Trae Welch, Erika Green, Chauna Banks-Daniel and Tara Wicker — also went to Kansas City.
BRAF paid for their airfare and hotel rooms, while project consultants from HNTB set the agenda.
At the next public meeting on June 21, city-parish leaders plan to delve into more specifics about the Baton Rouge tram’s route, stop locations and funding sources. The consulting team for the project has estimated construction would cost in the $150 million to $200 million range and says it wants to get at least half of the funding from the federal government.
“We have received great support and cooperation from the U.S. Department of Transportation, Secretary Anthony Foxx and his staff to complete this environmental assessment on a fast-track schedule to position this project to compete for funding,” Holden said in a written statement. “Our recent trip to Kansas City to see firsthand the success of its streetcar system demonstrated how we can not only move people in a new, efficient way but also create economic development to benefit the entire parish.”
The streetcar in Kansas City opened to the public on May 6.
Holden and those pushing for the Baton Rouge tram have talked up the growth of Baton Rouge and future development a tram could bring.
The Kansas City streetcar has resulted in $1.7 billion in economic development in its boundaries since voters approved it in 2012, its website says.
Daniel said the economic development aspect was the overall theme of the trip. He said he met a wide variety of people riding the Kansas City streetcar and that its rise has spurred young people into the area.
“I said, you know, we could be considered a city that is modern and embraces modern infrastructure so that we can attract young people,” Daniel said. “I could see where we could do all of the same things that Kansas City did and can be just as successful stimulating development and attracting young people.”
The preferred Baton Rouge tram route would run from Tiger Stadium to the State Capitol and would use Nicholson Drive, St. Ferdinand Street and North Fourth Street between South Stadium Drive and North Street.
Riders could hop on and off at North Street, Florida Boulevard, North Boulevard, Government/Spain streets, Europe Street, the entrance to the future Water Campus, Van Buren Street, McKinley Street, Aster Street and North Stadium Road.
The upcoming meeting will be from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 21, in Meeting Rooms 9 and 10 of the Baton Rouge River Center.
Those who cannot attend can still submit comments until July 7. They can submit them at www.tramlinkbr.com or mail them to K. Stephen Bonnette, director, Department of Transportation and Drainage, city of Baton Rouge — parish of East Baton Rouge, 222 St. Louis St., 8th Floor, Room 880, Baton Rouge, LA 70802.