Feb 102014
 
The silos blocking Jefferson Avenue near Constance will be moved in time for Mardi Gras parades, officials say. (Robert Morris, UptownMessenger.com)

The silos blocking Jefferson Avenue near Constance will be moved in time for Mardi Gras parades, officials say. (Robert Morris, UptownMessenger.com)

Crowds pack the corner of Magazine and Jefferson during the Okeanos parade in 2012. (UptownMessenger.com file photo by Sabree Hill)

Crowds pack the corner of Magazine and Jefferson during the Okeanos parade in 2012. (UptownMessenger.com file photo by Sabree Hill)

The Corps giveth and the Corps taketh away: The large structures blocking Jefferson Avenue near Magazine Street are in the process of being moved in time for Mardi Gras parades to make their usual turns around that corner, but soon afterward a four-block stretch of Prytania will close for about a year, officials said Wednesday.

Jefferson Avenue
Two large cement silos were installed on Jefferson between Constance and Laurel so that contractors could test a “jet grouting” method of building a foundation for a major new drainage canal that will run under the neutral ground, effectively closing Jefferson between Magazine and the river for months. That work is now complete, and workers are now in the process of removing the obstructions from Constance to the river, said Ron Spooner of the Sewerage and Water Board of New Orleans.

Some of the equipment will be moved nearer to St. Charles Avenue for use later in the project, and some of it will be fenced off and moved closer to the tennis courts, officials said at an open house Monday night at the Latter Branch Library on St. Charles Avenue.

“The equipment will be there and we’ll fence it in, but it’ll be shifted to the side,” said John Fogarty, resident engineer for Southeast Louisiana Orleans flood-protection project.

Corps officials have already met with the New Orleans Police Department to ensure that Jefferson and Magazine is clear and safe for parades like the krewes of Muses and Mid-City to make their turns, and for spectators to be able to watch them, they said.

“We’re going to be totally out of the way for Mardi Gras,” said Lori Wingate of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The closing of Prytania
In March, however, after the parades are over, contractors will begin closing a four-block stretch of Prytania Street from Jefferson to Nashville Avenue that will remain inaccessible to drivers for a year.

The corner of Prytania and Arabella is already closed for utility work, and traffic is restricted from Joseph to Nashville. Beginning in mid-March, a total road closure will go into effect from Nashville to Joseph for utility work and box-canal construction (see map below). Toward the end of May, that closure will continue from Joseph to Jefferson, and the entire Prytania project is not expected to be complete and reopened until mid-2015, officials said.

Map of scheduled closures on Prytania Street (via U.S. Army Corps of Engineers)

Map of scheduled closures on Prytania Street (via U.S. Army Corps of Engineers)

The back streets
Residents who attended Monday’s open house said they were more concerned about the accelerated deterioration of back streets around the project as drivers seek detours around the construction.

Kit Fritchie, who lives at “ground zero” of the project at Chestnut and Jefferson, said she is concerned about the damage being done to the back streets, and the fact that no money is designated to rebuild them.

“The inconvenience you can live with, but to know the streets are never going to be fixed…” Fritchie said.

Roger Brown, an Uptown resident who commutes through the Jefferson construction zone every day, said the Corps should focus on keeping main routes accessible as much as possible.

“It’s really falling apart,” Brown said. “But who takes responsibility? The city let these streets go down the tubes for years.”

The two phases of the Jefferson Avenue box-canal installation — 9,300 linear feet from South Claiborne to Dryades and from Dryades to Constance and the Prytania extension — are expected to cost $102 million and be complete in 2017. Together with similar canals on South Claiborne, Napoleon and Louisiana avenues, they are expected to improve drainage for 40,000 structures in the Uptown area, the Corps says.

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  • Penguin

    How about someone discussing the condition of Jefferson Ave above Claiborne? That stretch has turned into a zoo every single morning, with parents racing to the light at Claiborne. The street has gone from being semi-smooth to crater-esque. If NOPD sat there one morning, they’d make their speeding ticket quota in less than an hour.

  • Jen L

    I wonder if the businesses along this stretch will survive the closure: Prytania Mail and Prytania Liquor may both be in trouble.

  • QuienesSomos

    All for the drainage “improvements” (although we had no flooding in our ‘hood during Katrina – we’ll see what happens in the future) BUT why do they need to work on EVERY major river-lake road at the same freaking time??? Commuting from Napoleon to Carrolton has now become a 35 minute one-way trek!

    • boathead12

      The majority of this money comes from Congress, through USACE. This is the kind of money that if it is not spent in time, it is taken back and used on someone elses’ project. Use it or lose it. There is reason #1

      Reason #2 is that in order to have it all together for “the big event”, New Orleans’ tricentennial in 2018, it must be done now.

      Tell the folks on the riverside of the Prytania Theatre all about it never flooding. They get street flooding almost every time it mists.

      Do you wonder why our streets are so awful? It’s not just the graft. The leaking pipes undermine the streets, so any repair to the top is completely ineffectual in the long term. This section of Prytania is likely to be sound for 100+ years once this work is over.

      Finally, I asked the contractors why the upriver side of Jefferson in front of Ben Franklin Elementary is being allowed to disintegrate. They will switch sides of Jefferson very soon and have us all running on their new temporary pavement over there. It would be a real waste of resources to repair that pavement when they will be ripping it all out in two weeks.

  • boathead12

    The contractors seem quite receptive to our needs. Of course they have their own need to get this job done on time, and in a project of this complexity there will be toes stepped upon. My heart goes out to the folks who can not move into their new house because the movers can not get a truck near their home. Prytania Mail is also going to suffer from this. I hope everyone reading this goes the extra mile (or more) to continue to support our neighbors’ business.

    Note that pedestrian crosswalks are to be kept clean. If one of their trucks tracks clay and gravel over the crossing, they are obliged to clean it up promptly. Let a supervisor know if it’s not done.

    Note also that ANY equipment backing up requires a flagger/spotter. This applies to backhoes and flatbed trucks. I discussed this at length with the contractor, and they are aware they have not been compliant and will redouble their efforts. Again, their supervisors are responsible for this, but do not have eyes everywhere. If they are not compliant, ask for a supervisor and let them know.

    The project manager’s office is in the trailer on Entergy’s lot behind Newman School.