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Little Rock - November 2004

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Central Arkansas Transit Authority

November 1, 2004


The wait is finally over. After years of planning and months of testing, Central Arkansas Transit Authority's (CATA) River Rail Electric Streetcar system officially opened to the public today.

Sneak Preview - Last week, the cars operated from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m on just two days and more than 3200 people rode them. Cars had standing room only and many people at platforms were unable to board.

Dedication Ceremonies - At 10 a.m., CATA Board Chaiman Robert Major, North Little Rock Mayor Patrick Hays, Pulaski County Judge Buddy Villines and Chamber of Commerce officials dedicated the streetcar system on the north side of the river. Because of rain the ceremony was moved indoors to the North Little Rock Chamber of Commerce adjacent to the Alltel Streetcar Stop located on Main Street between Broadway and Washington in front of the North Little Rock City Services building.

The dignitaries then rode the streetcar across the Main Street Bridge to the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce (Markham and Scott) where they were greeted by Little Rock Mayor Jim Dailey and Little Rock Chamber officials for a short dedication ceremony.

"It's been a long time coming," said Keith Jones, CATA executive director and general manager. "We're excited that the vision has become a reality. It's taken a lot of work and coordination among North Little Rock, Little Rock and Pulaski County. However, with the leadership of Judge Villines and Mayors Hays and Dailey, we've completed Phase I of our system and look forward to extending the rails to the Clinton Presidential Library and the Heifer Project Headquarters starting next year."

The revival of streetcars to the streets of downtown Little Rock and North Little Rock will not only attract visitors and tourists, it will serve as a means of convenient access to attractions such as Alltel Arena and the River Market District.

Grand Opening Activities - On Friday, Nov. 5 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. the public is invited to the River Market pavilion for a free hotdog lunch, courtesy of First Security Bank's Teal Grill crew. Coleman Dairy is donating ice cream bars for the lunch-time event.

"We want everyone to take a free ride on the streetcar and come on down to the River Market for our Friday Funfest," Jones said. "The Bob Boyd Band will be providing music, and we'll be giving away lots of door prizes from businesses located along the River Rail route."

A Family Fun Day is planned from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 6. Various entertainers, including magician Derek Rose and guitarist Jeff Hall, will be stationed at all 11 streetcar stops.

"Children of all ages will enjoy riding the vintage streetcars so we hope parents will bring their kids downtown on Saturday for free rides and balloons and fun entertainment," Jones said.

For the first time in 57 years in Little Rock and 65 years in North Little Rock, electric streetcars will travel downtown city streets again. River Rail opens with three replica vintage trolleys from Gomaco Trolley Company operating on 2.5 miles of new track. An overhead catenary wire powers the cars, linking vibrant destinations in the River Cities. These include the 18,000 seat Alltel Arena, the 220,000 square foot Statehouse Convention Center, the River Market, numerous loft apartments, hotels, two city halls, the Argenta neighborhood, restaurants, Historic Arkansas Museum, Discovery Museum, the main Library, two Chambers of Commerce, courthouses, the Robinson Auditorium Concert Hall, Riverfront Amphitheater and dozens of office buildings.

The project cost $19.6 million and was assisted by New Starts Federal funding, STP transfers, and funding from the High Priority Project section of TEA 21.

The streetcar route uses the Main Street Bridge to connect the two cities. There are a total of eleven stops on Markham and Second Streets between Spring and Commerce in Little Rock, and Main Street, Seventh Street and Maple Street in North Little Rock.

More at www.cat.org


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