Narrow the neutral ground on Napoleon Avenue? Some residents say eliminate traffic lanes instead _lowres

Advocate staff photo by JOHN McCUSKER -- City officials released a compromise plan for Napoleon Avenue on Thursday that would allow for a neutral ground at the existing width and the addition of a bike lane — all without reducing the number of lanes dedicated to traffic or parking.

City officials released a compromise plan for Napoleon Avenue on Thursday that would maintain the size of the neutral ground and add a bike lane — without reducing the number of lanes dedicated to traffic or parking.

The idea is to reduce the width of both traffic and parking lanes by 2 feet each, rather than eliminating lanes altogether or reducing the size of the neutral ground.

The final configuration will be two 10-foot-wide vehicle travel lanes, one 5-foot-wide dedicated bicycle lane and one 7-foot-wide parking lane in each direction. The neutral ground will be restored to its original, pre-construction width of 47 feet

“This is a win-win-win for area neighborhoods, motorists and cyclists,” Mayor Mitch Landrieu said in a news release. “By working together, we feel confident that this roadway configuration is a reasonable accommodation for all interests.”

Concern about the configuration of the Uptown corridor emerged in the neighborhood this summer after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers unveiled its plans for how the avenue would be rebuilt after a major drainage project is completed late this year.

The project, part of the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control program, includes the installation of massive underground culverts below the neutral ground.

The original proposal would have narrowed the neutral ground by 9 feet to make room for two bike lanes, in keeping with administration efforts to create routes for cyclists throughout the city.

Neighbors pushed back against that proposal, arguing that reducing the size of the neutral ground, a popular gathering spot during Carnival parades, would alter the character of the area.

While bike advocates cheered the inclusion of bike lanes in the proposal, they teamed up with some of the neighbors to come up with an alternative plan that would have kept the neutral ground as is but dropped a lane for cars in favor of one for bikes.

The new city plan also calls for creating a 6-foot-wide footpath in the neutral ground and installing energy-efficient lighting in historic lamp posts.

That layout will be used from South Claiborne Avenue to Constance Street.

Asked whether the narrower lanes will create a problem on a busy road, city officials said the configuration meets the city’s minimum design standards. It is the same configuration in use on South Jefferson Davis Parkway between Washington Avenue and Drexel Drive, on St. Bernard Avenue between Harrison Avenue and Filmore Avenue, and on Robert E. Lee Boulevard from St. Bernard Avenue to Paris Avenue, they said.

John Templeton, the Corps’ project manager for the Orleans Parish portions of SELA, said the Corps had no objections to the new configuration.

“This is the city’s project. It’s pretty much the city’s decision,” he said.

Follow Jeff Adelson on Twitter, @jadelson.