- Associated Press - Saturday, February 8, 2014

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - A report outlining how to get a passenger train rolling from Baton Rouge to New Orleans is expected to be released later this month.

The Times-Picayune reports (https://bit.ly/1g7dtwm) a company hired by groups in both cities completed the final draft of a 35-page feasibility study by a Feb. 1 deadline.

John Basilica Jr., vice president of HNTB, the Baton Rouge engineering and planning firm hired by groups in both cities, says the report will include a business and implementation plan, as well as suggested funding sources.

The total cost of implementing the new plans is an estimated $250 million for infrastructure and about $7 million a year for operation.

HNTB took on the project at the behest of the Capital Region Planning Commission, Baton Rouge Area Foundation and New Orleans Regional Planning Commission.

All three groups have copies of the finished report in hand, and it’s up to them to release it.

“There has been a tremendous amount of support of it,” Basilica said.

Railroads haven’t made any firm commitments, he said, but they’ve been involved throughout the process.

Kansas City Southern owns most of the rail along the route, and Canadian National owns a small segment.

“They own the track, and obviously control a lot of decisions,” Basilica said. “Their reaction to what we’re doing has been collaborative, and that’s a positive thing.”

Baton Rouge Area Foundation Executive Vice President John Spain said in November that the train may take five years to become operational if all goes according to plan.

Proposed stops of the rail would be in downtown Baton Rouge, suburban Baton Rouge, Gonzales, LaPlace, Kenner, east Jefferson Parish and at New Orleans’ Union Passenger Terminal. Proposed locations for the suburban Baton Rouge stop include either Essen Lane or Bluebonnet Boulevard, near the Mall of Louisiana.

The train would make two trips daily to and from the two cities.

Ticket prices haven’t been determined, but officials say they would be competitive.

With the report completed, next steps include authorizing legislation at several levels and $62 million in infrastructure upgrades at the Bonne Carre Spillway.

“(There’s a) long way to go in the process to bring in the money and resources, but the super region is working together, which is very, very encouraging,” Basilica said.

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Information from: The Times-Picayune, https://www.nola.com

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