Ascension Parish joins the Intrastate Rail Compact

Lisa Yates @Lisa_editor
La. Intrastate Rail Compact local representatives include Attorney Ryland Percy. Ascension Parish businessman Joe Waguspack, Councilwoman Teri Casso and Councilman Travis Turner. Also pictured at center is Rachael DiResto, executive vice presindent of the Center for Planning Excellence. See our video online.

Ascension Parish Council passed a resolution to join the Louisiana Intrastate Rail Compact during its Thursday night meeting at the courthouse in Gonzales.

In 2010, the state Legislature created the Louisiana Intrastate Rail Compact, which serves as a political subdivision for local governments to explore passenger rail service linking Baton Rouge to New Orleans. The New Orleans City Council signed on, along with the Baton Rouge Metro Council, and now Ascension Parish.

The council's resolution included appointing five board members – a necessary step in the initiative. Members of the new board include Councilman Travis Turner, Attorney Ryland Percy, Ascension Parish businessman Joe Waguespack and Councilwoman Teri Casso.

Rachael DiResto, executive vice president of the Center for Planning Excellence, spoke at the meeting and thanked Parish President Tommy Martinez. She said a railway linking the two cities is needed to reduce traffic congestion and give people access to more jobs.

DiResto cited a report from the Greater New Orleans Data Center indicating that 50,000 people regularly commute between Baton Rouge and New Orleans for work each day.

"And that's not including the rest of the population," she said.

She said the next step is for the board to meet and determine what federal funds may be available to move the project forward.

Councilman Kent Schexnaydre said back in the 1950s Ascension Parish had passenger trains that carried people to and from New Orleans for work and recreation.

"It's amazing this has come full circle," he said. "I'm excited about this. It's a good step forward."