Is passenger rail travel from LaPlace possible? Locals asked to share input online
Published 7:59 am Thursday, May 17, 2018
LAPLACE — Community input is requested to steer the conceptual plan for a passenger rail and multimodal transit station near the intersection of Main Street and Martin Drive in LaPlace.
The proposed station would diversify transportation options and connect St. John the Baptist Parish residents to job training and career opportunities in the surrounding region, according to a St. John the Baptist Parish press release.
As part of a recently launched feasibility study, Planning and Zoning Director Alexandra Carter said Parish officials are working with contractor AECOM to address public involvement, gather data and conduct traffic counts.
The $150,000 feasibility study is scheduled to conclude this year.
Carter said the multimodal station project recognizes a long-term effort to establish a commuter rail corridor between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, including a dedicated stop in LaPlace.
Residents can answer questions about daily commutes and transportation needs at surveymonkey.com/r/laplacestationstudy.
The eight-question survey addresses retail and community development residents would like to see around the proposed site.
More immediately, the center would double as an emergency shelter and provide flexible space for rentals, public meetings and other civic events, according to Carter.
As outlined in the project contract, a public meeting will be held in approximately six months, giving the project team time to investigate rider accessibility, environmental and community impacts, parking availability and development of the adjacent area.
Final documentation, maps, conceptual graphics, scheduling and cost estimates will be available by the year’s end. Carter said a Southern Rail Commission grant is providing $75,000 for the feasibility project.
The 50 percent local match is being funded through St. John Economic Development, which includes $5,000 of in-kind services.
Carter said local and regional resiliency was the inspiration for the project, which was first proposed in a National Disaster Resilience Competition application submitted to the Department of Housing and Urban Development in 2015.
During five rounds resilience-focused LA SAFE meetings that engaged 324 residents from March to December 2017, residents identified challenges accessing regional job training and employment opportunities, according to Carter.
In a press release, Parish President Natalie Robottom said improving connectivity between New Orleans and Baton Rouge enhances economic, social and cultural development.
According to Carter, the effort directs commercial development to central LaPlace, an area of higher ground less susceptible to future storm surge.
“The transit station supports additional investment and infill development in the Historic and Main Street Area and nearby neighborhoods,” Carter said.
“Once we complete the feasibility study, the Parish will have the necessary information to begin seeking project funding sources.”