Since the fall, the city has paved over more than 400 of the gravel-filled pits left behind after the New Orleans Sewerage & Water Board makes underground pipe repairs, and it plans to fix hundreds more by this spring.
But that will still leave about half of those holes unfilled when the city wraps up Max Pave, as the $6.5 million effort is dubbed, Department of Public Works Director Keith LaGrange told a City Council committee Wednesday.
Max Pave, announced in October, is aimed at addressing the huge backlog of trenches and pits left behind after S&WB work that have long been an annoyance for motorists and nearby residents. Many have lingered for months or years with nothing but gravel to fill them, adding to the potholes and cracks that make driving and walking treacherous on many of the city's streets.
By focusing on paving over those pits with asphalt that will last for five years, city and S&WB officials hoped to restore some faith in the beleaguered public utility at a time when trust in it was low. The program also seeks to prevent newly dug holes from becoming a nuisance by better coordinating efforts to get them filled in within a few days.
As the program was ramping up, officials identified about 1,500 sites across the city with holes that had not yet been paved out of about 4,800 complaints that had been fielded by the city and S&WB over the years. The other complaints were either duplicates, had already been taken care or could not be found when crews went to assess them, LaGrange said.
But fixing all those holes would cost $5.7 million more than was available for the program, LaGrange said.
Officials crossed about 300 pits off the list because they were on streets that would be rebuilt by 2020 under a program using $2.4 billion in FEMA money to repair roads and pipes damaged in the flooding after Hurricane Katrina, LaGrange said.
They then chose 881 cuts to focus on, including “the worst of the worst” in terms of severity and those near “schools, major thoroughfares, playgrounds and anywhere we have a lot of activity,” LaGrange said. About half of those have been completed, he said.
The city focused most of its early efforts in areas near the river from Carrollton to Bywater and on the west bank, and crews have paved over most of the 411 holes in those neighborhoods, LaGrange said.
“The lesson is you want to have a district where there are Mardi Gras parades because then you get done first,” said Councilwoman Kristin Gisleson Palmer, who represents part of that area.
“That’s a joke,” she added.
The rest of the 881 pits on the list are spread across the city, and work on them is expected to wrap up in the coming months.
The city will have to find another source of money to complete the work by fixing the holes that are not included in the current program, LaGrange said.