Segments of Claycut Road have been closed for construction work for nearly two months, creating a traffic headache for many residents in the Capital Heights neighborhood and others who use the road for daily commutes.
The sewer construction work in the area was expected to be complete at the end of February, but bad weather has delayed work, and now the road will be closed for another three weeks. And after Claycut is reopened, parts of Capital Heights Avenue, which is one street over and runs parallel to Claycut, will be shut down for similar sewer work for about 90 more days.
Residents in the area say they appreciate the need for sewer improvements in their neighborhood, which has many old homes and aging infrastructure. But, they say, the lengthy road closures in the close-knit neighborhood have pushed traffic from Claycut to surrounding side streets, posing safety risks.
“Our neighborhood is in our streets,” said David Johnson, Capital Heights Neighborhood Association president. “This is a neighborhood where everyone is in their front yards. Bikers, runners are all outside for us, so to have so many cars traveling through the side streets is just dangerous.”
This time last year, the same area was closed for a month because of work on a sewer pump.
Claycut Road is closed from Bienville Street to Greenside Lane.
All of the projects in the neighborhood are related to the city-parish’s massive federally mandated sewer improvements project, aimed at stopping overflows in people’s homes and neighborhoods caused by an undersized, decaying sewer system.
The construction on Claycut Road involves replacing sewer lines with newer, larger pipes to increase sewage capacity in the area.
Many sewer pipes in the area are more than 70 years old. This particular segment of the sewer improvement project, which ties into other projects on Government Street and College Drive, costs about $11 million.
The road was closed on Feb. 2, and neighbors were told it would likely be finished by Feb. 28.
“We understand it’s inconvenient and impacts a lot of people,” said Josh Crowe, a program manager for CH2M Hill, the company overseeing the city-parish sewer program. “The weather has been a major impact. We’ve lost whole weeks because of weather conditions.”
The neighborhood is tough for construction, because the streets are fairly narrow and the sewer pipes are 15 to 20 feet deep in the ground, which is deeper than the typical lines in the parish.
Tyler Hicks, who lives on Hebert Street in the neighborhood, said commuters were being detoured onto his street, a portion of which is a dead end.
“My street is the first street they think they’ll be able to use, so they come speeding down my street, do U-turns in our yards, and then turn onto Capital Heights all frustrated and speeding,” Hicks said. “It’s been a big ordeal with all this extra traffic.”
As soon as Claycut is finished, work will begin on Capital Heights Avenue, from Bienville to Mouton streets.
Residents are bracing for more construction once the three-waying of Government Street begins, which could include restriping, new sidewalks and more traffic being diverted onto their neighborhood streets.
“Capital Heights is not going to be a quiet little place for the foreseeable future,” Hicks said. “But we’re going to weather the storm and then reap the benefits in the coming years.”