NEW ORLEANS (AP) — After months of construction, road closures and flying dust, New Orleans is about ready to open its new streetcar line near the Superdome — just in time for the Super Bowl.
A formal opening ceremony is planned for Jan. 28, said Patrice Bell Mercadel, spokeswoman for the Regional Transit Authority. That's when teams will likely arrive and out-of-state visitors are expected to start heading to New Orleans for the Feb. 3 game.
"We've been doing test runs for weeks now, and everything is looking good," Mercadel said.
For months, crews have been working to lay streetcar tracks through one of the business district's busiest corridors to connect by trolley the French Quarter and the Superdome.
Record crowds are expected when the city hosts its 10th Super Bowl during the peak of Carnival season. The city has been preparing for months. Crews have been resurfacing streets and fixing sidewalks, lights and potholes. Trees have been planted along major thoroughfares, and the airport got a multi-million-dollar makeover.
Funding for the new streetcar line came from a $45 million federal transportation grant, but the project ran over budget and behind schedule. The New Orleans RTA pegs the total cost at about $52 million — some $7 million more than projected — after a number of delays, including the relocation of power and utilities when workers found a petrified cypress log and an old underground ice house no one knew existed.
At Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport, new lighting, carpeting and furniture have been installed. Its bathrooms have been renovated, and one of its concourses has been expanded — all to the tune of more than $300 million.
Airport upgrades also include some new restaurants, among them Zatarain's Kitchen, Le Petit Bistro, Ye Olde College Inn and a branch of Dooky Chase's, a Creole favorite run by chef Leah Chase and her family.
"You're going to know you're in New Orleans when you arrive at the airport," airport spokeswoman Michelle Wilcut said. Continued...