|Central Arkansas Transit Authority
RIVER RAIL OPENS
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
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
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