Our regions are becoming increasingly interdependent. Citizens deserve transportation choices that enable economic and cultural mobility between Baton Rouge and New Orleans. Maximizing connectivity and ensuring equitable access to opportunity is essential to realizing Louisiana’s full economic potential.
The Louisiana Speaks outreach and planning effort that followed hurricanes Katrina and Rita determined through an inclusive process with over 27,000 participants that inter-city commuter rail linking the Baton Rouge and New Orleans metro areas should be a priority for Louisiana.
The region connecting these two major cities represents roughly half of the state’s population, jobs, and gross domestic product (GDP). As Baby Boomers retire and workforce supply shrinks, communities are increasingly competing to attract quality workers and business investment. With its cultural, intellectual, and infrastructural assets, the New Orleans/Baton Rouge region is poised to be a premier destination for economic development.
To successfully connect the metro areas, the region needs a dedicated source of long-term funding for rail and other transit options. Inseparable from transit investment is the need for directing equitable housing development along transit lines and creation of communities for current and future workforces that serve the major job centers along the New Orleans and Baton Rouge corridor.
Such funding and development patterns will electrify the region and position it as a prime location for growth and investment.
In the New Orleans/Baton Rouge region, while various groups are advocating for more housing choices, evacuation options, transit, walkable and bikeable streets, etc., the larger conversation linking them together is absent. Excitement around the inter-city rail project represents an opportunity to coordinate these groups, and to create a strong unified voice.
With high expectations of continued federal funding for rail and livable communities, the New Orleans/Baton Rouge region is in need of a Task Force of champions to advance the vision that regional transit, accompanied by smart and equitable housing investments and a bit of good planning, can be a transformative asset. These united voices will be necessary in gaining support not only at the state level, but also as Louisiana joins in the regional transit conversation with Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia.