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Tania Dall / Eyewitness News
Email: tdall@wwltv.com | Twitter: @taniadall

NEW ORLEANS -- It has been talked about for years, and on Wednesday night the public got to hear the latest update on the expansion of the North Rampart Street-St. Claude Avenue Streetcar project.

'I opened my store here because I wanted to personally invest in it,' said Faubourg Wines owner Catherine Markel. The St. Claude Avenue business opened its doors on Thanksgiving Day and hasn't looked back.

'I wasn't going to do it at all unless, if I couldn't get a space on St. Claude, because the revitalization of this corridor is important to me,' said Markel.

Markel, who has lived in the Marigny for four years, says the streetcar expansion was just another good reason to open up shop.

'That's something when I presented my business plan in order to get a loan. It was something I mentioned to the bankers,' said Markel.

On Wednesday night, the New Orleans Regional Transportation Authority held a public meeting at the Hyatt French Quarter Hotel. The purpose was to update the community on the streetcar project design which RTA says is now 60 percent complete.

'This particular streetcar expansion project is funded by a sales tax bond. It's a sales tax bonds that the agency was able to secure in the open market,' said RTA spokeswoman Patrice Bell-Mercadel.

The latest design plans call for the streetcar line to run from N. Rampart Street at Canal to Elysian Fields Avenue, which is about 1.5 miles. Previous design plans had called for a line to run all the way to Press Street.

'Obviously we'd love to extend streetcar lines all over the city. We're still securing funding and authorization to do so,' said Bell-Mercadel.

Deacon Rod Fonseca with Center of Jesus the Lord attended the public meeting. He is concerned about how streetcar expansion construction will impact traffic flow and parking.

'The people they come from all over the city and they come from out of town, as far as the Northshore. We have a parking lot across the street from the church and we want people to be able to go without a lot of problems,' said Deacon Fonseca.

For RTA bus riders like Altra Lindsey, having another way to get from the Lower 9th Ward to where she needs to go would be a positive addition to her daily commute.

'No one wants to stay here a long time waiting for the bus. If they had two forms of transportation things would move a long a little quicker,' said Lindsey.

RTA says it is planning another public meeting on the streetcar project sometime in May.

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