BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Mayor Sharon Weston Broome has put the brakes on the long-awaited Tram Link BR plan, deciding not to take advantage of a window to apply for federal funds in September to get the ball rolling on the $170 million project.
"Well, it's been decided that this isn't the year to go forward with it," Broome said.
The idea was first introduced by former mayor Kip Holden roughly two years ago and would link the downtown area to LSU's campus. The route would stretch about 3.4 miles along a railway from the university to North Street at the State Capital. It received overwhelming support last year amongst EBR metro council members in an 8-1 vote.
The tram would be set to be housed in Councilwoman Tara Wicker's district, who now says she is shocked at the sudden shift.
"It's a little disappointing because we definitely did vote for it at the council and was supportive of it at the council and definitely had thoughts that the project was going to move forward," said Wicker.
Wicker says a lot of time was devoted to the plan and that council members even took a trip last year to other cities where the system works well. It was her understanding that everyone, including mayor Broome, was onboard.
WAFB's Scottie Hunter asked Wicker if she was surprised that now the community is all behind the move and the mayor seemingly is not.
"Yeah. It is a little surprising," Wicker replied. "I'm interested to have a conversation with the mayor's office to see what their concerns are and what their questions are."
Broome says HNTB, the firm that did research for the tram, has some new findings and she believes it is important to consider the new information before moving forward.
WAFB's Scottie Hunter asked the mayor to clarify whether she missed the deadline or if it is something she chose to simply put off until another time.
"Oh absolutely," Broome replied. "As I said, HNTB which was leading the effort on the tram just received some data and they have yet to analyze that data and so we want to make sure that indeed our decisions are of course data driven."
The mayor maintains she still supports the street car and says her decision does not mean 'no' but rather just means 'not right now'.
"This is not the end of the tram but we just want to make sure that what we do is in the best interest of all the citizens of this city and of this parish," Broome added.
The mayor says she is more than likely leaning towards pursuing federal dollars for the project next year but also expressed interest in making the tram part of a master-plan approach to traffic in the capital city.