Mississippi Aerial River Transit
|Mississippi Aerial River Transit|
|City||New Orleans, Louisiana|
|Horizontal distance||2,300 feet (701 m)|
|Number of cars||53|
|Daily round trips||2,000 per hour|
|Began service||April 1984|
|Ceased operation||April 1985|
|Tramway manufacturer||Pomagalski SA|
The Mississippi Aerial River Transit, or simply MART, was a gondola lift transport system spanning the Mississippi River in New Orleans, Louisiana, United States. It was constructed for the 1984 Louisiana World Exposition. After the fair, this served as the second urban aerial lift and the first gondola lift commuter system in the United States.
The system featured 53 separate cars, a 2,300 feet (700 m) cross-river cable, twin steel towers that lifted the cable 200 feet (61 m) into the air, two station houses, concrete pillars that anchored the cable and two 358 feet (109 m) steel towers. Each of the two main towers were supported with 12-inch (300 mm) steel piles driven 285 feet (87 m) into the ground, with each tower weighing 200 short tons (180 t). Its twin towers were the tallest ever constructed for a gondola lift.
Plans for the gondola were initially approved by the city on May 6, 1982. It was developed by the Mississippi Aerial River Transit-Perez Inc., or MART-Perez, which included noted local architect August Perez III. In 1983, the Banque de l'union européenne of Paris provided financing for the project through an $8 million loan. In foreshadowing the future problems the gondola would face, on its maiden crossing, after being blessed by Archbishop Philip Hannan, the ride would temporarily stall. The ride took four minutes to complete and crossed over 300 feet (91 m) above the Mississippi River, and had a maximum capacity of 2,000 passengers per hour.
During the fair, this was billed as the signature ride of the exhibition; however, it drew only 1.7 million riders, half as many as projected. Built to showcase a form of non-polluting commuter transit, after the fair the system was open for use by commuters traveling from Algiers in the West Bank to the Warehouse District across the river. By April 1985, the system would shut down due to low ridership.
Later in 1985, the Banque de l'union européenne would file suit against MART-Perez when they defaulted on the $8 million loan. As a result of nonpayment, in 1986, MART was ordered by a federal court to pay the bank $5 million, plus $1.2 million in interest and attorney fees. However, MART never made a payment, and as a result, the gondola was seized by the United States Marshals Service in June 1989. After the seizure, the system was put up for auction in August with New York City businessman Moey Segal placing the winning bid of $1.6 million.
Segal intended to deconstruct the system and relocate it to Corpus Christi, Texas. It was intended to transport tourists from the primary hotel area to the Texas State Aquarium across the ship channel. Due to litigation, the proposal to move the system to Texas was dropped and Segal transferred its ownership to the 7349 Corp in 1990.
Following the failed proposal to relocate the gondola, the system was the site of several, notable local events prior to its demolition. On January 21, 1993, Christopher Vincent base-jumped from the top of the East Bank tower twice. He completed the stunt for the first time at approximately 10:30 a.m. and again later that afternoon at approximately 2:30 p.m. Each time he was successful in landing on the Mississippi River levee. On August 19, 1993, four Greenpeace activists were successful in hanging a banner from the system that stated "Break the circle of poison" in protesting the shipment of toxic pesticides through the Port of New Orleans.
By late January 1993, the United States Coast Guard demanded that the system be demolished if it were not being used. In November 1993, the New Orleans City Council approved the demolition of the system and its demolition was complete by February 1994. Prior to its demolition, several of the cars were sold off and reused elsewhere. Some of these reuses included fishing huts, a deer stand, and conversion to a bus-stop shelter. Most notably, The Olde N'Awlins Cookery briefly utilized five of the cars as restaurant booths.
The station on the East Bank was located at the foot of Julia Street adjacent to what became the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center after the fair. The station on the West Bank was located along Teche Street adjacent to where Mardi Gras World in Algiers is located.
Companies involved in its construction
- MART-Perez, Inc. – developer
- Hewitt Washington & Associates – architect
- Perez Associates/Studio Three – design consultant
- Landis Construction – general contractor
- Pomagalski SA – production of the towers and gondola system
- Jenlynn International – tramway consultant
- Alpha Associates – tramway consultant
- Morphy, Makofsky and Masson – tower foundations and structural engineering
- Engineering Planning Group – electrical and mechanical engineering
- John F. Beasley Construction – tower installation
- Banque De L'Union Europeene – financing
In popular culture
- The attraction is featured in the 1985 movie French Quarter Undercover, including being prominently shown on its movie posters.
- The Roosevelt Island Tramway, which opened in 1976 in New York City, was an aerial tramway system not a gondola lift system as the MART was. See also "Aerial gondolas planned for New Orleans transit". Engineering News-Record. May 12, 1983. pp. 17, News.
- "Fast-track tram over river". Engineering News-Record. May 3, 1984. pp. 25, Features.
- POMA. "POMA Group: History". Retrieved October 17, 2006.
- New Orleans Public Library. "New Orleans Building Plans – Street Names beginning with C". Retrieved 2006-10-17.
- Jensen, Lynne; Bruce Eggler (January 15, 1994). "Goodbye gondola: It's the end of the line". New Orleans Times-Picayune. pp. A1.
- AP Reports (August 25, 1986). "Gondola won't operate when Riverwalk opens". The Advocate. pp. B2.
- Cannizaro, Steve (June 2, 1989). "Gondola may reopen, be sold to another city". New Orleans Times-Picayune. pp. B1.
- Gyan, Jr., Joe (August 11, 1989). "Mississippi River gondola purchased". New Orleans Times-Picayune. pp. B3.
- Cannizaro, Steve (October 4, 1989). "Gondola move likely". New Orleans Times-Picayune. pp. B1.
- Gyan, Jr., Joe (August 19, 1992). "Court finds float builder didn't interfere in gondola sale". The Advocate. pp. B7.
- Lee, Vincent (January 29, 1993). "Chuting stars caught-Base jumpers get adrenaline high". New Orleans Times-Picayune. pp. A1.
- Eggler, Bruce (November 6, 1993). "Gondola finally has destination: demolition". New Orleans Times-Picayune. pp. B1.
- Staff Reports (January 22, 1994). "Gondola tower removal delayed". New Orleans Times-Picayune. pp. A25.
- Grady, Bill (November 15, 1993). "Lord saved the cars, but the gondola will go". New Orleans Times-Picayune. pp. B4.