Dozens of residents frustrated with the seemingly omnipresent and unending construction disrupting traffic and lives in Uptown New Orleans peppered city, federal and utility company representatives with questions about the projects Tuesday evening.
The forum, hosted by City Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell, comes as a new Entergy New Orleans project is about to further complicate the already tricky process of navigating through the area.
In addition to the problems and traffic snarls caused by the work itself, residents said they were exasperated with what they described as haphazard planning that means streets are torn up and rebuilt over and over as different projects come through.
“This is a very long-term problem around here,” resident Mark Sulkes said. “There seems to be absolutely no comprehensive oversight. Streets are dug up for repairs; they’re dug up again a week later. There seems to be no brain center in the apparatus.”
Officials with the Department of Public Works and the Sewerage & Water Board said the two agencies are working together in an effort to make sure all their work can be done as efficiently as possible and without having to duplicate efforts.
In part, they said, the problem stems from overlapping projects, some of which are controlled by deadlines for using federal money.
“We’re really inundated all at one time with a lot of work going on,” Cantrell said. “I don’t believe we’ll see this much in our lifetime as a city.”
The work sprawling across Uptown New Orleans comes from several types of projects.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is doing work as part of the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project, a regional effort aimed at improving drainage to handle heavy rainfall.
At the same time, the Department of Public Works has been using recovery funds provided after Hurricane Katrina to fix up roads, and the Sewerage & Water Board is conducting repairs on its dilapidated systems.
Next up is a $30 million project by Entergy New Orleans to install new transmission lines in preparation for the planned shutdown of its Michoud plant, which provides about three-quarters of the city’s power. Power would then be provided by the Ninemile power plant on the West Bank, which needs to be connected to the city by the new transmission lines. That will involve installing new conductors on the utility’s transmission lines and then pulling the lines themselves through them.
Installing those lines will require revolving street closures, no-parking zones and restrictions on pedestrians and bicyclists, who could be put in danger if they are in the area while lines are installed.
The work will be done in the Audubon Park, upper Magazine Street and Annunciation Street areas from mid-July through October. A second phase will run lines from Carrollton to Xavier University.
The Corps has about $300 million of construction ongoing in District B and $600 million of work in the entire city, including the work along Jefferson and Louisiana avenues, which involves installing massive underground culverts.
The next phase of the Jefferson Avenue project, running from Dryades Street to Constance Street, is expected to be completed next summer. The final phase of the project, from South Claiborne Avenue to Dryades, will be completed by winter 2017.
The Louisiana Avenue project is expected to be completed by spring 2018.
Officials urged residents to check roadwork.nola.gov, the city’s interactive map for tracking road projects, for more details on work near them. The map will eventually be updated with features to show traffic information.
The city also is preparing to roll out new “pothole killers,” equipment designed to fill potholes more quickly. Those could eventually be tracked on a website, as well.
Cantrell asked residents to contact the city’s information line at 311 and her office about needed road repairs.
“Some of them are not just potholes. It seems like they’re craters that you can fall into and can’t get out,” she said.