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Louisiana to seek New Orleans-Baton Rouge passenger rail line from federal stimulus pot that Jindal called wasteful

Published: Saturday, February 28, 2009, 8:00 AM     Updated: Saturday, February 28, 2009, 11:14 AM

BATON ROUGE - Louisiana's transportation department plans to request federal dollars for a New Orleans to Baton Rouge passenger rail service from the same pot of railroad money in the president's economic stimulus package that Gov. Bobby Jindal criticized as unnecessary pork on national television Tuesday night.

The high-speed rail line, a topic of discussion for years, would require $110 million to upgrade existing freight lines and terminals to handle a passenger train operation, said Mark Lambert, spokesman for the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development.

Jindal on Tuesday delivered the official Republican Party response to President Barack Obama's address to Congress. He criticized the stimulus package passed by the Democratic-majority in Congress and the president and noted examples of projects that he found objectionable.

"While some of the projects in the bill make sense, their legislation is larded with wasteful spending," Jindal said. "It includes ... $8 billion for high-speed rail projects, such as a 'magnetic levitation' line from Las Vegas to Disneyland."

Louisiana's transportation department plans to request federal dollars for a New Orleans to Baton Rouge passenger rail service.

The $8 billion pot is for high-speed rail and inter-city passenger rail service projects. The Federal Railroad Administration will make decisions about which grant applications to approve but has not yet released the rules and requirements that will determine the awards process. Emphasis will be placed on projects that are near ready for implementation so that the stimulus money can hit the streets soon.

Jindal oversees the state transportation department and appointed its secretary.

Lambert said the agency intends to apply for the Louisiana rail line but the prospect of getting the grant is very much up in the air. The administration will have to review the application procedures before moving forward, he said.

The passenger service Amtrak has a rail line that runs from New Orleans west to Lafayette and beyond, but does not connect in the state capital. About 89 miles of freight line connecting the two cities would be upgraded to handle the higher-speed passenger trains.

New Orleans Union Passenger Terminal and an existing freight station near downtown Baton Rouge would be improved to handle passenger traffic. State officials have talked to Amtrak about providing the service, Lambert said.

Other pots of transportation money in various federal spending bills might also offer opportunities to pay for the rail service.

A aide in Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu's office said the state also has passenger rail connections from New Orleans to Houston and Meridian, Miss., on the drawing boards, but the Baton Rouge line is the most realistic at this time.

The federal stimulus bill does not specifically mention a rail line connecting Las Vegas to Anaheim, Calif., because any potential recipient of the money must file a grant proposal. However, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, was instrumental in boosting the amount of money for the rail projects in the stimulus bill. He has said he intends to tap that money for a rail line from Las Vegas to Anaheim, where Disneyland is located.

Asked for comment Friday about the Jindal stance on the federal rail money, the governor's Chief of Staff Timmy Teepell said he does not think the Las Vegas to Anaheim line is a good use of taxpayer money. He did not address the Louisiana proposal.


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rmcnola February 27, 2009 at 6:52PM

What is wrong with the govenor, somebody tell him that Bush is not in office anymore. It sounds like he doesn't like any idea, to help the economy if it's not a tax cut. Tax cuts alone don't stimulate the economy; ask all the people in the unemployment line, thanks to your bff Bush!!!

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perplexed February 27, 2009 at 6:54PM

Jindal was right and DOT should not even consider this. Passenger rail NEVER breaks even just on the operating costs, and the upgrade will have cost overruns because they always do.

Only 400 people a day take LA Swift. Just how many more would travel from a one declining CBD to another? If there are intermediate stops, then it is no longer high speed.

Anybody, and that would be most people, who would need a car at either end would still drive.

Rail is a bad idea that will only benefit clients of the rail lobby.

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schrowa4 February 27, 2009 at 6:59PM

Jindal, you are such a bonehead. Why would you criticize high-speed rail projects? Do you know how many people hate the drive between BR and NOLA? Do you know how much they would love to be able to take a magnlev train and get between the two cities in 15 minutes? Can you imagine the ways this could help the two cities grow and protect against hurricanes? It would be a great addition to have Houston to BR tied into high speed rail as well. Maglev trains get up to 362 miles per hour. Can you imagine commuting to Houston in 45 minutes to an hour and not having to drive? This would help Baton Rouge, solve congestion problems without adding more roads and ease evacuation concerns. It would make it so much easier to work and play in Louisiana.

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LadyJenn March 22, 2010 at 3:58PM

"It would make it so much easier to work and play in Louisiana". Right now is not the time to be focusing on the desires and wants. It's obvious that "the change" was a bunch of crap and everyone is paying for it now. Who cares about your desire to get from BR to NO at a faster rate when our economy is falling apart all around us. You are an idiot.

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enuffbs February 27, 2009 at 7:00PM

"......that Jindal called wasteful."

Class act, TP, adding that little final wording. You have lost all objectivity, and all credibility. REPORT the news, without so blatantly trying to shade it with your own BIAS.

The headline on this article is the reason the TP is headed down the same cr---er that the Denver paper which recently shut down after 150 years of operation.

Jeeeez... what a clown --you call this journalism?

EnuffBS

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enuffbs February 27, 2009 at 7:05PM

Ummm... Shrow... did you bother to read the, well, I hesitate to call it an article as it is so obviously a work of propaganda in its own right; but had you read it, you'd note that the MAGLEV (correct word)...was for California... what this Pork would be used for is to "upgrade existing FREIGHT tracks"... to create a rail line connecting N.O. to B.R. --- and another poster is correct... it would NOT generate the monies needed to even pay for its upkeep.

Talk about boneheaded ideas!

EnuffBS

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culdcept February 27, 2009 at 7:06PM

We NEED THIS. Louisiana, and especially New Orleans, needs to finally MOVE INTO THE 21ST CENTURY!

Go jump in a ditch, Jindal!

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LadyJenn March 22, 2010 at 4:04PM

You are an idiot.

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tinag February 27, 2009 at 7:07PM

You know what? Every major city has some type of rail system. Is it possible that La. could join the 20th/21st century?? It would be fabulous to be able to get on a damn train to BR. I'd actually go again. I10 between NO and BR is a frickin' nightmare.

BUILD THAT TRAIN!!!! People in BR could come down for the day and not have to worry about parking.

We need better public transport in the south. In the NE it is so great to hop on a train and ditch the vehicle.

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winsa February 27, 2009 at 7:08PM

You know what is wasteful? The Governor's mind!

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tinag February 27, 2009 at 7:08PM

Oop, culdcept we were on the same page!

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bigfrankeee1 February 27, 2009 at 7:24PM

9 billion for rail lines that the politicians will just happen to own all the land near by to make sure their families get rich .... do you know anybody that will ride the train from baton rouge to new orleans to get off the train and get robbed while waiting for a ride to work

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schrowa4 February 27, 2009 at 7:27PM

Maglev's costs of operations are much less, it lasts longer, it is quieter, and �the dual-guideway maglev has the passenger-carrying capacity of a 10-lane highway. Yet it uses less land, about 15 percent of the land you use for a typical four-lane highway.

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dumasrl February 27, 2009 at 7:35PM

A high speed rail system between Baton Rouge and New Orleans would be wonderful.

Jindal is an idiot...and he proved it with that pathetic speach the other night.

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dumasrl February 27, 2009 at 7:39PM

bigfrankeee1,

They would upgrade exisiting rail lines. Did you not read the article?

I live in Baton Rouge and I certainly would ride the train from BR to NO...several times a month. It would definitely beat driving. As for getting robbed...I don't live my life in fear!

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