Landrieu hailed the new line — 0.8-miles long, or 1.6 miles of track through the Central Business District — as a major economic win for the city.
"This streetcar line is not just a red box on a rail going to nowhere," he said, calling it a "pathway to prosperity."
The streetcar line was 85 percent financed by a $45 million TIGER grant issued in 2010. (The line, originally scheduled to open last year, ended up costing more than $52 million.) The grant was part of President Obama's American Recovery and Investment Act of 2009, also known as the economic stimulus bill.
In spite of ongoing debate about the effectiveness of the stimulus, LaHood said, it "worked when it comes to transportation."
The Loyola line, he said, "will create hundreds of jobs and will create the kind of economic opportunity and activity that is long overdue in New Orleans."
(After the jump, a short video of the inaugural ride, led by the St. Augustine High School marching band)