Bike lanes to be added, traffic lanes reduced on Jackson Avenue, city says

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A rendering of the new configuration of Jackson Avenue through the Garden District, after a repaving project scheduled to start later this year. (via city of New Orleans)

A rendering of the new configuration of Jackson Avenue through the Garden District, after a repaving project scheduled to start later this year. (via city of New Orleans)

As part of an upcoming repaving project on Jackson Avenue, the portion of the street through the Garden District will be reduced from two travel lanes to one and a bike lane added on each side of the road, New Orleans city officials told nearby residents in a meeting Thursday evening.

The city is actually planning two separate construction projects on adjacent sections of Jackson Avenue, said project manager Josh Hartley and Department of Public Works outreach specialist Kristen Sawyer.

South Claiborne to Galvez
The first project — scheduled to begin construction April 18 — is a full $2.6 million road reconstruction on the short section between South Claiborne Avenue and South Galvez Street. The entire road will be dug up, new utility and drainage lines will be installed underneath, and the road itself will be rebuilt with new sidewalks running alongside it, officials said.

The two-lane configuration of this section will not change, however, and it is scheduled to be finished later this year. There may be occasional water service interruptions, city officials said, but they will only take place when the new lines are being connected.

South Claiborne to Tchoupitoulas
The second project will repave the entire length of Jackson Avenue from South Claiborne Avenue down to Tchoupitoulas. Contractors are bidding on the project now, and the city hopes to select a company this spring, allowing construction to start in the summer and conclude by the spring of 2017.

The scope of the repaving project is much more limited, as workers will scrape off the top three inches from Jackson Avenue and replace them with fresh asphalt. One water line will be replaced, between Clara and Willow streets, officials said.

But when the section of Jackson Avenue from St. Charles Avenue to Tchoupitoulas is rebuilt, its configuration will be different, officials said. Instead of the current two vehicle lanes and a parking lane in each direction, each side of the neutral ground will have a wider, single lane for vehicles, a 6-foot bicycle lane and a parking lane.

The reason for the change, the officials said, is that Jackson Avenue is a bus route, which requires an 11-foot travel lane. The current lanes are only 10-feet each, but the new vehicle lane will actually be even wider at 13 feet. When complete, Jackson Avenue will resemble the current configuration of Esplanade Avenue, officials said.

“It’s been working well for the city,” Hartley said of the reconfigured Esplanade Avenue. “The traffic flow is very good, and cyclists love it.”

What about the drivers on Esplanade? the residents asked.

“The traffic flows,” Hartley replied. “It’s nice.”

The proposed reconfiguration drew mixed reactions from the neighbors St. Thomas Baptist Missionary Church on Thursday evening. The city’s traffic department has studied the proposal, however, and supports it, Hartley said.

“They believe the traffic counts support this configuration,” Hartley said.

Jackson Avenue resident Billy Sothern, however, said he expects the removal of the second vehicle lane to reduce speeding on the wide-open stretch.

“I’m very enthusiastic about the bike lane. I think it will make it safer for my kids,” Sothern said. “I suspect if it’s one lane, there will be less race car action.”

Because the project leads through historic districts, it must be reviewed from a preservation standpoint as well, Hartley noted. For example, all granite curbs will be preserved.

Several residents asked if the neutral ground could be widened, given the extra space freed up by the reduction in lanes. Lou Volz, a former member of the City Planning Commission and past president of the Coliseum Square Association, said the second travel lane was added on that stretch of Jackson Avenue to accommodate the increase in traffic headed to the ferry landing. Since the ferry closed in 2009 (with its landing subsequently placed up for auction), Volz said there had been discussions within the Lower Garden District Renaissance effort of restoring streetcar service to that stretch of Jackson Avenue, and that a wider neutral ground could be a stepping stone in that direction.

“Why spend money on something that may just have to be torn up later?” Volz asked.

Hartley, however, replied that the project budget likely doesn’t include enough money to widen the neutral ground.

Many residents entered the meeting dismayed that the city is planning a significant construction project on yet another major Uptown transportation artery, but officials stressed that a road repaving is nowhere near as disruptive as the installation of major drainage canals on Louisiana, Napoleon and Jefferson avenues. The contract time for the entire Jackson Avenue job is 120 working days, and a travel lane will be kept open at almost all times, they said.

“I don’t really expect it to take that long, depending on the contractor we get,” Hartley said.

When the actual asphalt is being laid, there may be 20 to 30 minute intervals when the street can’t be used on a short section, Hartley said, but those won’t be scheduled during traffic rushes. On-street parking may also be affected for a few hours at a time, but only briefly. On weekends, when workers aren’t present, Jackson Avenue will be completely accessible — though perhaps rough in the patches that have been milled but not yet repaved.

Because the bid hasn’t been awarded, Hartley said the actual sequence of construction hasn’t yet been determined. His best guess, he said, is that it will start at South Claiborne and head toward the river, possibly working on one side first and then coming back up the other.

The city has also built consideration of next year’s Mardi Gras into the contract. Workers will have to cease construction one week prior to the first parade on St. Charles Avenue, and won’t resume until parades are over. As Carnival nears, Hartley said, officials will begin looking for a natural stopping point, ensuring that the project doesn’t interfere with either the parades on St. Charles or the famous Krewe of Zulu route on Jackson itself.

“We will demobilize,” Hartley said.

Other residents asked if water-permeable materials could be used instead of asphalt, but that would require reconstruction of the entire road rather than just a repaving, a much more expensive project, Hartley said. The Department of Public Works is considering some “green” infrastructure projects in the area, however, and there may be structures that can be added along the roadside to help with water management, he said.

20 thoughts on “Bike lanes to be added, traffic lanes reduced on Jackson Avenue, city says

  1. I cannot fathom why the bike lanes don’t extend to La Salle…….. Aren’t there more bicyclists through Central City?

    • Jackson Avenue narrows considerably on the lake side of St. Charles Avenue. There is no neutral ground and definitely not enough room for a dedicated bike lane. There’s plenty of room between St. Charles and the river, however, where Jackson Avenue is about twice as wide.

  2. Again another road re-configuration that does not even attempt to create a protected bike lane with parking in between the roadway and the bike lane.

    Very disappointed.

    • That might be more expensive, making suspicious folks like The Goat even angrier. This plan is pretty cheap, and the same configuration works really well on Esplanade Avenue. Also, Jackson Ave has TWO speeding cameras on the stretch of the road to be reconfigured, and the speed limit is 20 m.p.h. In my experience, vehicular traffic is pretty calm there.

      • Well, I used to live in that neighbourhood and gave up trying to bike on Jackson Ave. The aggressive drivers posed too great a risk to even the most attentive cyclist. And I must disagree that the Esplanade stretch works well for cyclists. I live and travel on Esplanade, and I gave up trying to cycle there, too, after a couple of close calls. I often to see vehicles driving dangerously in the marked bike lane. And once the dedicated bike lane ends at Claiborne, the shared lane poses much greater risk for cyclists, who all cling to the right hand side of the lane as vehicles speed past them, dangerously close. Neither the cyclists nor the drivers appear to understand what the sharrows mean, and the city is just too darn cheap to install signs to educate them. No thanks: I’ll continue to drive rather than risk my life riding a bike in this city.

    • I agree entirely. Protected bike lanes are the ONLY way to ensure bicyclists’ safety in this city. The drivers are way too aggressive and impatient in their behaviour towards bicyclists and pedestrians. We will continue to see more bicycle injuries and fatalities from aggressive drivers without protected bike lanes. I, for one, will no longer hazard my life riding a bike on major arteries without a protected lane; the risks to life and limb are just not worth it.

    • Although that kind of separation may seem like a good idea for straightaways, it creates new, perhaps worse dangers at each intersection that a bicyclist attempts to cross. In your scenario, the bike is travelling on the other side of a parked car from the vehicle travel lane, so when the vehicle decides to make a right turn, the driver has no idea that a bicyclist it travelling in the same direction, hidden behind a row of parked cars. This is likely to end in an increase in bike fatalities. The more visibility the bicyclist has to motorists, the better.

      Ken Zatarain’s idea of painting a hatched buffer of 2′ width between the vehicle and bike lane is a better suggestion, providing some extra space definition to make the bicyclist feel safer while not compromising the visibility to the motorist.

      • Respecting protected bike lanes, the intersection issue is not such a hazard with a reasonable no-parking zone on each side of the intersection. The 20 foot no-parking zone in New Orleans should be sufficient space for drivers and bicyclists to see and avoid each other. Drivers have to watch and yield to pedestrians in crosswalks anyway, so adding bicycles to the mix should not prove so difficult. Protected bike lanes lessen both the risks of strikes to the rear from distracted or dangerous drivers as well as ‘dooring’ by parked motorists exiting their vehicles.

  3. Why not fix all the potholes and the insanely torn up streets before tearing up anymore perfectly good streets. The Garden District has several streets that are collapsing into ditches on the sides. Lakeview has some crazy rollercoaster roads that have deteriorated so bad that they look waves on the ocean more than a street.

    • Fear not. That $1.2 billion FEMA roads settlement announced last December will help the collapsing streets of the GD. Meanwhile, revising the configuration of Jackson Avenue between St. Charles & Tchoupitoulas into something akin to what’s been installed for almost the entire length of Esplanade Avenue will be an immensely worthwhile new amenity.

  4. Another option is a buffered bike lane. General traffic lane at 10 or 11 feet, two-foot cross-hatched buffer strip, six foot bike lane. this allows enough room for buses, even with a 10-foot lane.

  5. I could not agree more! It is criminal that these signs were not installed on every street with a shared traffic lane. I have lost count of the number of times I have had automobiles ride my back tire dangerously when I was occupying the centre of shared lanes, in accordance with the painted sharrows. I have stopped riding my bike on city streets, entirely. The drivers in this city are way too aggressive and impatient to risk riding a bike legally. By the way, I obeyed ALL traffic signs and signals when riding my bike, and was courteous to all motorized vehicles.

    • Poydras behind City Hall is very scary for cyclists….I go through the parking lot, but I eventually have to get back onto the street near La Salle.

  6. There is a lot of debate about the evolving science of safe bicycle path design, but I believe the New Orleans model of paths, either shared or separated, on the roadway lanes, is a good model compared to some of the more ambitious things being done in some other cities.

    Separate paths are less safe: Numerous people posted links to safety studies. There appears to be general agreement that separated cycle paths are less safe at intersections. Data from Berlin and Denmark show a marked increase of cyclist (and pedestrian) injuries at intersections after cycle paths were put in. (The results were adjusted for the increase in ridership.) The graphic above shows the relative risks for cyclists depending on where they are traveling. The most dangerous path is on the wrong side of the street. The safest is on the street.

    • Please note that the studies to which you refer were made in Europe, where driver competency and awareness of and respect for cyclists is much greater than in North America. I suspect that if such studies were made in New Orleans, the findings would be opposite, i.e. a decrease in collisions involving bicycles. The problem in New Orleans is less one of visibility and more one of dangerous, distracted, belligerent, careless or incompetent drivers. Separating bicyclists from the worst drivers in North America can only be a good thing.

  7. Agreed. I don’t think the city is always putting in shared lanes in the proper locations (putting them on Freret, for example, was sheer insanity) but that’s another topic — clearly, the meaning is not readily apparent to most people and additional signage is needed if shared lanes are to work as intended.

  8. Yes indeed. There needs to be a comprehensive plan for bike traffic flow. More than this hodgepodge, well intended as it is. As truly protected lanes are extremely difficult for a number of reasons, whole minor streets should be dedicated to bikes/pedestrians and local traffic only.

  9. Jackson Ave on the Central City side has a nice road-bed; however, it is a nightmare for cyclists riding on the St.Chas to Tchoup section. The road is really rough, like Carondelet from MLK to Calliope.

    Ask any cyclist which streets are top priority…… they are everywhere and too numerous.

  10. I am certain there are NOT two lanes, each side, on Bienville. Idiot drivers try to make it so. It is ONE wide lane, as we have on St Chas above Louisiana.

    • Perhaps we are thinking of different parts of Bienville, as I am familiar only with the stretch from City Park Ave. to Jeff Davis, and can’t speak for the rest of it.

      Yesterday, I observed a very faded center stripe dotted line from City Park Ave. to Carrollton Ave (barely visible due to past street repairs without restriping), which indicates two lanes. Then from Carrollton Ave to Jeff Davis Parkway, there is a bold new center stripe down the middle, indicating two lanes, with the right lane being marked with a “sharrow”, meaning cars mush share that lane with bikes, as opposed to a dedicated bike lane.

      Both segments of Bienville are the same width, so I believe the faintly marked section is still two lanes even though it is not as well marked as the second section I described.

      I do think one lane with a dedicated bike lane would be a good idea for that section.

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