Canal Street ferry terminal to be torn down, opening up riverfront

Posted on: November 5 2015

By Katherine Sayre, | The Times-Picayune

The Canal Street ferry terminal, seen for years as an impediment to opening the Mississippi riverfront, would be torn down and replaced with a pedestrian landing on a floating barge, under a plan being pursued by New Orleans city and transit leaders.

The proposal is part of a larger vision to revamp the area between the Audubon Aquarium and the former World Trade Center: upgrades to Spanish Plaza, a rail spur for a new streetcar line headed Uptown toward the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, a bus terminal for connections and two new ferry boats.

"We are going to rebuild this foot of Canal Street," Mayor Mitch Landrieu said in a news conference Thursday (Nov. 5).

The current terminal is worn and in disrepair. The escalators haven't worked for many years. The overpass that arches over the railroad tracks, built in 1980, would come down with a demolition. 

The Regional Transit Authority recently received a $10 million federal transportation grant to go toward the project. It's one of a growing list of projects that the Landrieu administration hopes to see completed by the city's tricentennial celebration in 2018, along with a new $650 million airport terminal and a renovation of the World Trade Center.

Justin Augustine, vice president of Transdev, the Regional Transit Authority's private manager, said building a new terminal will cost $15 million, which will be covered with federal and state funding. Augustine said the larger vision for the area would cost $41 million to accomplish, and a search is ongoing for more grants. 

Augustine said the plan has five main components:

A more modern landing structure would be built on a barge. The size has yet to be decided. The idea is to create more walkable, open space on the riverfront. "It won't be a barrier or an inhibitor of pedestrian access along the river," he said.

A bus terminal would connect passengers with the streetcar and the ferry.

Two new, more modern ferry boats would be added. Augustine said a bid request is now open to find a boat builder.

A new streetcar line would go Uptown from Canal Street.

Developing retail space is a longer-term goal that's being planned as a second phase, he said.

The Canal Street area of the riverfront is already a bustling intersection of tourists, pedestrian commuters (an average of 300 people ride the Canal-Algiers ferry every day) and locals exploring the Aquarium and Woldenberg park.

More people are on the way. A planned $360 million renovation of the World Trade Center into a Four Seasons hotel with 336 rooms and 80 luxury condos is slated to begin construction next year.

The nearby Riverwalk reopened as the Outlet Collection after an $82 million renovation, drawing more shoppers. The Convention Center, meanwhile, has its own plans for expansion further upriver in hopes of attracting more meetings and events.

Transdev is working with engineers and designers on planning the site, before issuing a bid request to find a contractor, he said.