New Orleans officials said Friday they have made good on their promise to find the money to build a pedestrian bridge leading to the new Canal Street ferry terminal, assuaging one of the main concerns about the project raised by residents.
The bridge over the New Orleans Public Belt Railroad tracks will cost $7.4 million, bringing the total cost of the project to $39.4 million. Funding will come from the city's capital budget, bond proceeds and the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority.
The ferry is operated by the RTA.
Finding the money for the bridge meets a key demand of Algiers residents and others who opposed the demolition of the existing terminal and the proposed new terminal project, which Mayor Mitch Landrieu wants completed by next year, when he leaves office.
In a partial win for residents who have long criticized plans to replace the aging ferry ter…
That public outcry came after the original $32 million proposal for a 3,600-square-foot glass building failed to include a pathway over the riverfront railroad tracks. Residents worried they would have to wait long periods while slow-moving trains passed, perhaps missing the ferry or being made late for work.
“This is a win-win-win for all involved,” Landrieu said. “This pedestrian bridge will serve our ferry passengers and ensure that we have the ability to open up our special riverfront to the public.”
The new, smaller terminal is designed to make for a more open riverfront, since it will no longer be a barrier between Woldenberg Riverfront Park on one side of Canal Street and Spanish Plaza and the Riverwalk outlet mall on the other.
The project is also seen as a hub for other development along the riverfront, including the Four Seasons Hotel being created in the former World Trade Center building right next door.
Under a plan being floated by the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority, two brand-new, hig…
But Landrieu’s vision for an improved riverfront was complicated by residents who accused the mayor of prioritizing his plans over the needs of local ferry riders.
Those critics said the mayor and the RTA should have consulted with residents long before plans for the new terminal were drawn up. They demanded a bridge over the tracks and covered walkways to protect riders from the elements.
The City Council and Landrieu in March promised to try to come up with the cash, at least for the pedestrian bridge.
A plan came together when the Audubon Nature Institute, which controls the nearby Audubon Aquarium of the Americas and Woldenberg Park, gave the OK this summer for City Hall to use some of Audubon's land for the bridge and when the city took $5 million from its capital budget recently to pay for the bulk of the bridge’s construction.
A controversial plan to replace the aging Canal Street ferry terminal again faced criticism …
That money, which will come from undesignated Hurricane Katrina insurance proceeds, won’t come at the expense of other projects, Landrieu spokesman Ryan Berni said.
The RTA also coughed up an extra $1.4 million after it received additional federal grant dollars. Another $900,000 was pulled from bond proceeds held by the New Orleans Building Corp. for Canal Street improvements.
The revised terminal will be 5,000 square feet and will be connected to the aquarium, Berni said.
Manning Architects, the original designer of the terminal, will also design the bridge, with plans to be released at a later date.
Former City Councilwoman Kristin Gisleson Palmer, who helped lead the campaign to get the bridge, praised the news Friday but said the timing seemed more than a coincidence.
“I think it’s politically motivated to find (money) eight days before an election,” said Palmer, who is challenging City Councilwoman Nadine Ramsey for the District C seat. Palmer's platform calls for building both the pedestrian bridge and covered walkways to the terminal.
In Friday's announcement, Landrieu specifically credited Ramsey for working to make the bridge happen. Landrieu’s political action committee, NOLAPAC, is supporting Ramsey in her match-up against Palmer, who formerly held the District C seat.
“But regardless, we are very pleased that finally, eight days before the election, they understand the importance of serving the community first,” Palmer said.
Voters in District C will be able to rely on recent and more distant memories in choosing wh…