Fed up with large delivery trucks clogging streets, damaging sidewalks and knocking down light posts, French Quarter residents made an appeal to a New Orleans City Council committee this past week for a law that would ban or restrict the movement of such vehicles in the city’s oldest neighborhood.
The French Quarter Management District wants the council to clamp down specifically on so-called “combination trucks,” those that are longer than 36 feet and consist of a tractor pulling a cargo container.
Such trucks, some of which are up to 70 feet long, have difficulty making turns on the 22-foot-wide interior streets of the French Quarter and, as a result, they often scrape balconies, crack sidewalks and knock down light posts, said Gail Cavett, of the French Quarter Management District’s infrastructure committee.
Cavett said the organization has been studying the impact of big trucks in the French Quarter for two years. She presented the results of that work at the meeting.
Most of the trucks that make deliveries into the French Quarter — about 90 percent of them, according to the FQMD study — are not longer than 31 feet. Those vehicles, which deliver things like food, beer and alcohol, don’t pose a problem, Cavett said.
“From all of the research that we have done, the indication is that a vehicle 31 feet can make a turn in the French Quarter, and when trucks get over 31 feet, they cannot without doing damage,” she said. “A 70-foot truck cannot make the turns, clearly. Our streets would have to be 30 feet wide for that vehicle to be able to make a turn.”
The organization submitted a sample ordinance to the council that would set a 31-foot length limit on trucks, tractors or trailers traveling through the Vieux Carre. Trucks between 32 and 35 feet would be permitted to enter with an annual permit from the Department of Public Works, but they would not be allowed to make turns onto the narrow streets. Instead, they would have to follow a route that leads directly into and out of the French Quarter.
Vehicles longer than 35 feet would be barred from entering the Quarter unless they obtain a single-use permit from the Public Works Department. The permits would be difficult to receive, Cavett said, and would be reserved for vehicles that make infrequent trips into the French Quarter, such as those delivering equipment for film productions.
John Williams, executive director of the Beer Industry League of Louisiana, a trade association representing beer distributors, said that while a restriction might be appropriate to prevent 18-wheeler-like trucks from traveling through the Quarter, his organization would object to a restriction on trucks between 31 and 36 feet. Prohibiting those trucks from making turns would slow deliveries and increase traffic congestion, Williams said.
Council members Stacy Head and Jason Williams committed to helping to push an ordinance forward.
Williams said he was shocked that New Orleans has not already limited the use of large trucks in the French Quarter. He said drivers who knock down light posts and damage bollards or property in the French Quarter often hit and run, leaving the city on the hook to pay for repairs.
“When that damage occurs, that truck is gone. So there’s no lawsuit. There’s no pockets to follow. That comes out of our budget. What you’re talking about is also good for our bottom line as well,” Williams told Cavett. “It’s timely; it’s probably past due. So I will be very supportive and will continue to do what I can to help drive this forward.”
Councilman Jared Brossett said the council would need to “strike a balance” between protecting the delicate French Quarter infrastructure and supporting commerce.
Councilwoman Nadine Ramsey, whose district includes the Quarter, said the meeting was for informational purposes only, and she did not commit to introducing new legislation. But she did call the issue a “modern problem” for the historic neighborhood and said she would be “looking at existing laws.”
Editor’s note: This story was changed on Jan. 12 to correct the term for the short posts meant to protect buildings from traffic.