The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the New Orleans Sewerage & Water Board are preparing to expand the Florida Avenue Canal as the next project in their massive regional drainage improvement program.

The $280 million project will involve doubling the size of the canal and installing new underground culverts at intersections.

The canal improvements are part of the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project, known as SELA. The project, first authorized in the 1990s, is designed to improve drainage in New Orleans and Jefferson Parish so that it can handle rainstorms that have a 10 percent chance of occurring each year.

Construction is expected to begin in early February and run through late 2018, said Lori Wingate, project manager for SELA in Orleans Parish.

Officials will hold two public meetings to discuss the project. The first, focused on the improvements from St. Ferdinand Street to the Peoples Avenue Triangle, will begin at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Franklin Avenue Baptist Church, 2515 Franklin Ave.

The second will focus on the improvements from St. Ferdinand Street to Mazant Street; it will be at 6 p.m. Monday at St. Mary of the Angels Catholic Church, 3501 N. Miro St.

The project would mean essentially doubling the capacity of the drainage system in the area, Wingate said. It does not involve moving the majority of the drainage underground, an expensive process.

“What we like to do is get the most bang for our buck,” Wingate said. “Where there’s enough room — and we do have enough room in that area — we like to use an open canal.”

Construction will require lane closures on Florida Avenue and occasional closures of entire sections of the roadway, as well as work on some of the side streets in the area, she said.

The improvements follow an initial phase of work that involved upgrading about 1,000 feet of canal from the pumping station to Mazant Street.

While there will be traffic delays during the project, Wingate said, the result will be a better experience for drivers.

“When we get done, the roads will be nice and smooth where we’ve been,” she said.

Follow Jeff Adelson on Twitter, @jadelson.