Algiers — The Louisiana Office of Motor Vehicles is closing its well-used Algiers office, the only office open in the city of New Orleans, as the department prepares to reopen its main facility on Veterans Boulevard.
The state announced the closure Friday, although notices were put up at the Algiers office about a month ago, OMV Commissioner Stephen Campbell said. The Algiers office is adjacent to the Crescent Connection toll plaza, in the rear of the main Crescent City Connection building. It will close for good Dec. 28.
Campbell said the tiny Algiers office, with its limited parking and difficult access, was an inefficient location for an OMV office. More importantly, it is no longer needed now that the state is finishing the reconstruction of its site at 100 Veterans Boulevard, right at the New Orleans and Jefferson Parish line.
“It is a very congested area,” Campbell said. “It is not conducive to doing Office of Motor Vehicle business.”
The $4 million Veterans Boulevard location should open in February and will pick up customers from the current Metairie office, which also is closing, and the Algiers office, he said. In addition, given that New Orleans is the state’s largest city, the state plans to reopen an express office in eastern New Orleans in late 2013, Campbell said.
Ryan Berni, a city of New Orleans spokesman, said the city is finishing the public bid process for that lease. Campbell also noted that the state plans to open a new location in Kenner’s Rivertown.
The change will cause some inconvenience for West Bank residents because with the Algiers office closed, the only locations available will be the always-crowded Harvey location on the West Bank Expressway and the location at Westwego City Hall. Campbell said the state is considering opening an office in Gretna or Terrytown but has not finalized that process.
“There is a need, but for right now we’re going to continue to use the Harvey and Westwego locations,” Campbell said.
Residents were surprised to hear about the Algiers closure, despite the signs that were up. Christine Gibson lives in eastern New Orleans but uses the Algiers location because it’s the most convenient spot for her. She said it doesn’t make sense that New Orleans has only had one office for so long, and it makes even less sense that the state would close that office down.
In comparison, there are five locations in East Baton Rouge Parish and three in Jefferson Parish.
“I think it’s a crying shame,” Gibson said. “But as big as Orleans Parish is, why would you only have one office?”
George Keith lives in Gretna but said he prefers the Algiers office to the Harvey location because the wait there can be ridiculous. Many residents use the smaller, less-known locations in Hahnville or Westwego for the same reason.
Campbell acknowledged that the Metairie and Harvey locations have substantial wait times and said that’s because those locations weren’t designed to house driver’s license bureaus. In some cases, the state had to open offices in less than optimal locations because of damage caused by Hurricane Katrina. That means that some offices have inadequate restrooms, parking or privacy features.
The Metairie office has “been open for far too long, and it was never designed to be a motor vehicle office,” said Campbell, who noted that the state plans to open a new office in St. Bernard Parish as well. “We’re going to rectify that.”
Campbell said the closure has nothing to do with the Louisiana State Police’s takeover of the Crescent City Connection Police Department, which currently shares the space with OMV.
The State Police announced Friday that on Monday, administrative control of the CCC police will be taken over by the Department of Public Safety in preparation for the complete takeover on Jan. 1.