After years of watching oversized delivery trucks clip balconies, knock down light posts and damage sidewalks, fed-up French Quarter residents received a victory Thursday when the City Council approved an ordinance banning big trucks in the neighborhood.
Delivery trucks 36 feet or longer will be prohibited from traveling the narrow streets of the French Quarter without a special city permit under the ordinance, proposed by Councilwoman Nadine Ramsey, whose district includes the Quarter. It is aimed directly at addressing residents’ concerns that the trucks are causing damage to sidewalks, lamp posts, buildings and other elements of the city’s oldest neighborhood.
The French Quarter Management District, a state-chartered organization, asked a council committee in January to clamp down on large trucks in the neighborhood.
The group, which studied the matter for two years, asked for a rule that would ban so-called “combination trucks,” those that consist of a tractor pulling a cargo container. It said the long delivery trucks clog the Quarter’s narrow streets and cause damage because they sometimes can’t safely make turns on the district’s narrow, 22-foot-wide streets.
Under the ordinance approved 7-0 Thursday, no vehicle, truck or truck-tractor 36 feet or longer will be allowed in the Vieux Carre, except in certain circumstances and with city approval. The ordinance also prohibits trucks, tractors and trailers from driving or parking on sidewalks or curbs.
Exceptions to the length and weight requirement will be made for vehicles transporting a single item, such as large pieces of filmmaking equipment, that cannot be divided onto smaller trucks.
The city’s Department of Public Works will have to issue a special permit in those cases. The permit will require that the vehicle follow a certain route and move at a certain speed.
Violating the ban carries a $500 penalty for a first offense and $1,000 for a second offense. The city also retains the right to suspend or revoke any permits previously issued to the owner, manager or operator of a vehicle caught violating the ban.
The FQMD study found about 90 percent of the trucks that make deliveries in the French Quarter are no longer than 31 feet. Those vehicles, which deliver things like food and beer, don’t pose a problem, Gail Cavett, chairwoman of the FQMD Infrastructure Committee, told the council in January.
“A 70-foot truck cannot make the turns, clearly,” Cavett said. “Our streets would have to be 30 feet wide for that vehicle to be able to make a turn.”
The organization submitted a draft ordinance to the council that would have set a 31-foot length limit on trucks, tractors or trailers traveling through the Vieux Carre and allowed trucks between 32 and 35 feet to enter with an annual permit from the Department of Public Works and with restricted travel on a route that leads directly into and out of the French Quarter.
The measure approved by the City Council is less stringent than that proposal.