Officials said they are redoubling efforts to install crash barriers along Jefferson Parish drainage canals after another vehicle ended up in a Metairie canal this week.
Unlike other accidents in the past two months, the driver of the car that landed in the canal Monday afternoon survived. But the crash was enough to rattle Jefferson Parish officials, who have been researching what it would take to construct barriers along the parish’s 340 miles of unprotected canals.
The vehicle, which was traveling in the westbound lanes of West Esplanade Avenue between Division Street and Hessmer Avenue, ran off the road and into the canal but stopped just short of entering the water.
Multiple bystanders looped a heavy strap around the body of the black sedan while emergency rescuers were en route, said Bruce LeBlanc, who took pictures at the scene. Sheriff’s deputies rescued the driver, who was still in the car as it teetered on the edge of the water, LeBlanc said.
The driver was taken to the hospital but was not seriously injured, Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office spokesman Col. John Fortunato said.
Parish officials recently initiated talks to install more crash barriers along canals. But the cost could run into the millions, and there’s no source for that much money yet, Public Works Director Kazem Alikhani said.
Parish Councilwoman Cynthia Lee-Sheng said Tuesday there are other potential obstacles. Building guardrails that are deep enough to withstand the impact of a moving car may weaken the banks of some canals, and the existing curbs around some canals may cause cars to launch over barriers that are built too close to the roadway, she said.
Both scenarios would require widening canal banks.
“We are quickly realizing that our canals may have to be approached differently with regard to engineering,” Lee-Sheng said.
In April, Karissa Wise, 6; her mother, Elizabeth Braddock, 32; and firefighter David Yeomans, 33, were killed in two separate accidents that occurred just days apart.
Braddock and her daughter died after their SUV crashed into a canal at Veterans Memorial Boulevard and Clearview Parkway on April 14. Braddock lost control of her SUV while driving near Clearview Mall.
Authorities recovered Yeomans’ body on April 10 after his truck ran into the same stretch of canal where Monday’s accident occurred. Yeomans had last been seen at work April 5, and he was reported missing April 9, the day before someone spotted his half-submerged truck and called first responders.
Since then, a mother and child have been rescued from an SUV that barreled into the West Esplanade canal near Toby Lane, also in Metairie.
Councilman Ben Zahn said officials have explored three types of barriers that could be installed along uncovered canals: galvanized steel, timber or steel-backed timber, all of which would be accompanied by “rumble strips” similar to the ones that warn interstate highway motorists when they’re veering too far off the roadway.
Zahn said he’d push to expedite a traffic study meant to determine which type of safety barrier is the most effective for the parish’s unprotected canals.
In the meantime, Alikhani, Zahn and Lee-Sheng said officials have identified some stretches of uncovered canals they’ll address while awaiting the study results. They didn’t specify the exact areas.
Zahn said he’d prefer to cover the drainage canals permanently, but he knows that’s a costly, long-term fix.
“We have no good options,” he said. “But we’ll find a way.”