It's rare that a single news item has the potential to please both devotees of Tennessee Williams and fans of professional football, but here goes: New Orleans is scrambling to complete a streetcar line that will connect the French Quarter to the Superdome in time for the February 3 Super Bowl.
The new line, along Loyola Avenue, is part of a massive preparation for the big game, the Crescent City's 10th, but the first it has hosted since Hurricane Katrina blew through town in 2005, leaving 80 percent of the city underwater. Other components of the facelift include the repaving of streets, the repairing of busted streetlights and potholes, and a major airport renovation.
The new streetcar line will begin at Union Passenger Terminal (home to buses and Amtrak trains) and end at Canal Street, where passengers can hop other lines to get to such must-see locales as the French Quarter, Audubon Park, and St. Charles Avenue's mansions. Funded by a federal grant, the project is part of a large-scale program by the U.S. Department of Transportation to link long-distance rail passengers with local light rail lines, cutting down on fuel consumption and city congestion.
New Orleans's streetcars trace their history back to 1835, when the New Orleans and Carrollton Railroad Company laid tracks along the Mississippi River, making New Orleans the first city west of the Allegheny Mountains to install a municipal passenger rail. The inspiration for the title of Tennessee Williams's 1947 play A Streetcar Named Desire was a line that ran down Bourbon Street through the French Quarter to Desire Street from 1920 to 1948.
Streetcar lines originate downtown and take passengers to outlying areas of the city. A one-way fare is $1.25 and can be paid with exact change as you board. Passes are available for $5 (for a one-day pass), $12 (three-day), and $20 (five-day). For more information, visit the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority at norta.com.
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