NEW ORLEANS (AP) Railroad freight traffic could be shifted tracks that run through one of Louisiana's most affluent neighborhoods if planners get their way.
But it could take $700 million to make the change.
State transportation officials are studying whether to reroute freight trains from a track that bisects one of the most affluent parts of Metairie to a combination of tracks that would parallel Earhart Expressway and pass through the Hollygrove neighborhood on New Orleans' western edge.
Jefferson Parish officials, reported The Times-Picayune, support the plan. State officials say an environmental study will conclude at the end of 2014, at which time they will seek public comment.
Jefferson Parish President John Young told attendees at a meeting that “for the first time in history'' the railroads have come to agreement on a course of action. Officials of the Norfolk Southern Railway, Canadian National Railway and CSX Transportation say they're awaiting the study before making a choice.
The Port of New Orleans, meanwhile, said in a statement that the middle belt “would be a good solution to the need for more capacity'' and “at a minimum'' the railroads should set a joint operating plan if the current route stays in place.
It's not the first time that the problem has been studied. The first of at least eight publicly funded studies on the subject is 38 years old. Generations of Old Metairie residents and commuters have endured seemingly endless delays.