Nine years after the launch of widespread road reconstruction projects initially aimed at repairing streets damaged during Hurricane Katrina, area officials marked the completion of the last segment of two major programs Wednesday.
The Submerged Roads and Paths to Progress programs, paid for with $208 million in federal emergency funding, have resulted in repairs to more than 104 miles of roads in New Orleans, Jefferson Parish and St. Bernard Parish since 2007.
The last segment of the two efforts, repairs to Franklin Avenue near the University of New Orleans Lakefront Arena, was completed Monday.
The two projects were a joint effort by local governments, the state Department of Transportation and Development and the Federal Highway Administration.
“It is a testament to what can be done in America if you spend infrastructure dollars and if you organize yourselves by breaking down the stovepipes horizontally and vertically between the state, local and federal governments and the public and private sector,” Mayor Mitch Landrieu said before a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Franklin.
“You can get stuff done. You can get it done fast. You can create jobs. You can leave something really great behind for the taxpayers,” he said.
The two programs began when Congress appropriated $3 billion for emergency repairs after Katrina. About $1.2 billion of that went to Louisiana, with most of the money going toward the rebuilding of the Interstate 10 twin spans over Lake Pontchartrain and for debris removal.
Much of the money that remained was used to kick off the Submerged Roads program, which amounted to about $118 million in road repairs and repavement across the region starting in 2007.
A second program, Paths to Progress, kicked off in 2012 and included $90 million in additional projects, including some on streets that were not damaged by the storm but were considered key routes in need of repair.
“Roads are critical for a community to come back,” DOTD Secretary Shawn Wilson said.
Jefferson Parish President Mike Yenni, who lobbied for significant roadwork through the programs when he was mayor of Kenner, said he had been told by some voters that the street repairs were the reason they voted for him.
Among the projects completed under the two programs were significant repairs to streets in the Central Business District before the Super Bowl in 2013, an effort that required quick turnaround on the repairs at the urging of Landrieu.
That set a pace of relatively quick work on the rest of the projects, Federal Highway Administration Division Administrator Charles “Wes” Bolinger said.
Landrieu used the ceremony, as he has with other recent events, to tout the importance of federal and state funding for infrastructure, arguing that improvements to New Orleans’ roads, port and airport are key to its future.
Follow Jeff Adelson on Twitter, @jadelson.