It will be dé jà vu all over again for St. Charles Avenue streetcar riders starting Sunday.
Once again, the historic green streetcars will be operating only at the two ends of the 6.6-mile line. Buses will carry passengers over the middle section, which will amount to a third to a half of the entire line.
Unlike 2011 until mid-2014, when the service disruptions were caused by seemingly endless work to replace the wooden ties that support the tracks, the culprit this time is SELA: the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Damage Reduction Project.
Specifically, construction of massive new underground drainage canals at Jefferson, Napoleon and Louisiana avenues will force cancellation of streetcar service over much of the line for at least three months.
The work already has caused detours and congestion for motorists on those three avenues and part of St. Charles, as well as disruptions in water service for some nearby residents and businesses.
The Regional Transit Authority said that from Sunday through July 11, streetcars will operate between Canal Street and Erato Street, the downriver portion of the line, and between Webster Street and South Claiborne Avenue, the upriver portion. In between, a “bus bridge” will get riders from one streetcar to the other.
Between July 12 and Aug. 8, streetcars will operate only on the upriver portion, between Webster and South Claiborne. Buses will carry passengers the entire remaining section of the line. In fact, the buses will run the full length of the line, from Canal to South Claiborne, in case riders don’t want to have to transfer at Webster.
Finally, from Aug. 9 to Sept. 5, the same scenario as begins Sunday will go back into effect: streetcars on the upriver and downriver portions of the line, buses in the middle section between Erato and Webster.
Veterans of the earlier work on the streetcar tracks won’t be surprised if those schedules turn out to be only approximate and the work takes longer than expected.
Owners of businesses along the St. Charles line that depend heavily on tourists attracted by the almost century-old streetcars, especially in the Riverbend section of Carrollton, suffered during the earlier construction when tourists either did not take the St. Charles line at all or else decided not to proceed farther Uptown when told they would have to switch to a bus.
The latest disruptions could produce similar effects.