Letter to the editor: Side streets, school traffic need more attention during Uptown drainage projects

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By Clark Thompson

If you live in Uptown New Orleans, you’ve probably had the misfortune of driving on Octavia street in the past few months. The US Army Corp’s SELA project effectively closes Jefferson Avenue, and ends up sending lots of traffic onto Octavia, and the wear and tear of additional use is destroying the street. And the street is destroying cars, but that’s already been covered.

At last night’s meeting about the Napoleon Avenue leg of the project, the US Army Corps of Engineers offered no plan to solve this oversight, and this must be addressed, but first let me ask you a question. You, my neighbor, have to do sewage line repairs in front of your home, and in the process, you dig up the sidewalk and the street, such that you leave the sidewalk impassable for months. Because of your work, pedestrians choose to walk across my yard, trampling my lawn and garden, and frequently thowing trash along the side of your pit. When your excavation project is complete, I’d expect you to pitch in to help repair the damage to my yard and garden; I’ll pick up the trash gratis. Is it reasonable for me to expect you to pitch in to help with fixing what you broke?

“No” is the answer from the US Army Corps. They recognize that their work will double and triple the wear and tear on the minor streets around the project, but they will contribute no funds at all to the maintenance during the project or the repair after the project of any of those streets.

This is simply unacceptable.

As we have already witnessed on the Jefferson Avenue project, the Corps’ approved project plan deflects an enormous burden of traffic onto Leontine, Octavia and Valmont. Those streets are wearing quickly and will be blighted by the time the contractors demobilize in 2017. General Pershing, Milan, Jena and Cadiz will be subjected to the same overuse as a result of the SELA project. It is insult enough that they must inconvenience us for three years. The Corps and their contractor must maintain and repair the streets destroyed due to overuse caused by their SELA projects.

This was obviously a question the Army Corps had prepared for, albeit with an unacceptable answer. The next question however found the Corps completely flatfooted, and demonstrate a lack of understanding of “conditions on the ground”.

There are five active schools in a four block span of the SELA Napoleon Phase III Project. These school administrators have invested years of effort and thousands of dollars in planning and managing their respective school carpools. The moving work area of the SELA project will disrupt these thousand children’s carpools for at least two and a half years. Project planners have thus far failed to factor these facts into their “traffic control” plan. In fact, “traffic control” means that barricades are placed to prevent driving in the left lane. That’s all. And it is entirely insufficient.

The Army Corps and their contractor Boh Brothers must take the lead and initiate a traffic study and plan, and they must do so urgently. There is no reason to wait until traffic on Magazine is backed up to Soniat to start working on the solution.

It is very likely that a safe resolution of the problem will require the hiring of more crossing guards. That too is not the burden of the New Orleans taxpayer, it is the responsibility of Boh Brothers and USACE. Plans and budgets for projects like this have a margin for contingencies of this sort, and that is where the funding must come from.

It is unrealistic to expect that this complicated and expensive engineering project should be completed without hiccups. Nevertheless it is the responsibility of the project managers to make every reasonable effort to mitigate the impact of the project. The responsible thing to do here is to conduct a traffic study in collaboration with all of the impacted schools. They will have to carefully choreograph their carpools with the work of the contractors.

It is unfortunate to uncover these omissons in the USACE project plan at this late date. There is time though for the US Army Corps and in particular their contractor Boh Brothers to act as good neighbors and leaders and correct these errors.

Repair the roads that the SELA project breaks and make a plan to get kids safely to school.

Clark Thompson is a resident of Uptown New Orleans. He publishes on social media sites under the handle “boathead.”

6 thoughts on “Letter to the editor: Side streets, school traffic need more attention during Uptown drainage projects

  1. I agree completely. We live on Marengo St. between St. Charles and Freret and dump trucks, excavators, crane trucks and short loads all treat this street like it’s a commercial thoroughfare because they’re too lazy to drive to Louisiana Ave. back to the SELA site on Napoleon. We have a brand new school right in the midst of all this where parents from all over N.O. come to drop off and pick up their children and end up leaving their shocks and struts behind! The weight of this traffic is tearing up these streets and as a result, my 100 year old property. Its disgusting!!

  2. They need to reset the timing of the traffic lights at Prytania and at St. Charles. They need to be synced. The light at Prytania should be green a bit longer. This is only the third day of one lane on this side of Napoleon, and is already and backed up and a nightmare. That could help alleviate some of the side street usage if Napoleon was flowing better with one lane.

  3. It is as if nobody thinks! I have been trying to get the Corps (which acknowledges responsiblity) to repair Jefferson Ave. from St. Charles to Magazine since the week before Christmas. There is no excuse for the deplorable condition of this street on both sides of the former neutal ground. The heavy eqipment being used for the drainage project is the real offender. What is there now is dangerous for automobiles. And, I agree, the surrounding streets are taking a beating.

    I was told the CORPS had an estimate from Barriere Construction to make repairs and the CORPS had accepted their “bid”. That was 2-3 weeks before Mardi Gras. Still nothing.

    Napoleon Ave. and Louisiana Ave be very cautious, very cautious!

  4. I have been trying to get “No Truck Route” signs re-positioned and added to Valmont street for at least 6-8 months. The city slapped one up at Tchoup on the back of a stop sign, so trucks don’t see it until after they have made the turn (and the older one that has been there for almost a decade is behind a bush). Several letters to my Councilperson to add ones at Valmont and Magazine have not resulted in success. Trucks, extra cars, speeders all day, all night.

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