Little Rock, Arkansas/River Rail Project

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River Rail Project

Little Rock, Arkansas

(November 2000)


The Central Arkansas Transit Authority (CATA) is planning the implementation of a vintage streetcar circulator system on existing right-of-way connecting the Alltel Arena, the River Market, and the Convention Center in downtown Little Rock to the communities of North Little Rock and Pulaski County. CATA proposes that service be provided by seven replica streetcars operating on a single track powered by overhead catenary. The proposed system includes a 2.1 mile alignment, purchase of vehicles, and construction of a maintenance facility. Ridership projections estimate 1,000 to 1,200 average weekday boardings with an additional 1,000 to 1,800 riders on special event days. A future 0.4 mile extension to the William Jefferson Clinton Presidential Library site has been proposed. Revenue service is planned to begin in December 2002.

The project is estimated to cost $13.2 million in escalated dollars, with a proposed Section 5309 New Starts share of $8.6 million. Because the proposed New Starts share is less than $25 million, the project is exempt from the New Starts criteria, and is thus not subject to FTA’s evaluation and rating (TEA-21 Section 5309(e)(8)(A)).

Summary Description


Proposed Project:

Vintage Streetcar System
2.1 miles, 8 stations

Total Capital Cost ($YOE):

$13.2 million

Section 5309 New Starts Share ($YOE):

$8.6 million

Annual Operating Cost ($YOE):


Ridership Forecast:

1,000 average weekday boardings


A feasibility study was completed in 1997. No formal Major Investment Study (MIS) was completed due to the limited scale of the proposed investment, the use of existing rail and street rights-of-way, and the estimated low cost. FTA approval to enter the preliminary engineering phase of project development was granted in May 1998. FTA approved project entrance into Final Design in September 1999.

TEA-21 Section 3030(a)(36) authorizes the Little Rock River Rail project for final design and construction. Through FY 2001, Congress has appropriated $5.94 million in Section 5309 New Starts funds to this project.

Locally Proposed Financing Plan
(Reported in $YOE)


Proposed Source of Funds

Total Funding ($million)


Appropriations to Date



Section 5309 New Starts

STP / FHWA Section 1602




($5.94 million appropriated through FY-01)






NOTE:Funding proposal reflects assumptions made by project sponsors, and are not DOT or FTA assumptions. Totals may not add due to rounding.


Map of streetcar circulator system on existing right-of-way connecting