Report: Money from traffic cam fines isn't going to city streets

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NEW ORLEANS -- According to a new report, the City of New Orleans is only spending $3.8 million on street maintenance and none of that is coming from traffic camera fines.

Ask any New Orleans driver, our city streets are in bad shape.

"People just don't have no place to park because the potholes and the streets are so bad," one man said. 

"I've seen a lot of makeshift cones that really don't do service to how dangerous those deep sinkholes, small sinkholes can be," another man said.

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FEMA recently awarded New Orleans nearly $2 billion to repair streets and underground pipes damaged during Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

The independent Bureau of Governmental Research maintains now is the time to install a reliable maintenance program for city streets.

"It's very important that we go about it in a way that captures and preserves for the long term, the rebuilding that we're about to embark upon," BGR President and CEO Amy Glovinsky said.

According a new BGR report entitled "Paying for Streets: Options for Funding Road Maintenance in New Orleans," the city is only spending about $3.8 million a year on street maintenance.

Glovinsky says that's a fraction of the $30-$35 million a year needed just to seal cracks and fix potholes.

"I think the current condition of the streets speak for themselves in terms of past practices," Glovinsky said. "Preventive maintenance shouldn't be delayed any longer."

According to the report, traffic camera citations, parking tickets and other street-related revenue sources generate more that $50 million a year, but the city invests none of the money on street maintenance.

"The dollars that come from street related funds and fees, certainly seem to be a very rational place to start on looking for these dollars," Glovinsky said.

The report makes the following recommendations:

-- The City should implement budgeting and accounting procedures to ensure that all revenues dedicated to streets and traffic signals are spent on those purposes.

-- The City should identify recurring revenues to provide the $30 million to $35 million it needs each year for preventive street maintenance.

-- The City should direct a portion of its existing street-related fees, fines and taxes to streets. At a minimum, future net increases in these revenues should go to streets.

-- The mayor and the local legislative delegation should initiate a comprehensive reassessment of existing local tax dedications with an eye toward redirecting taxes to meet basic municipal needs, including streets.

-- The City should consider implementing a Transportation Utility Fee to broaden the base of contributors to street funding and better calibrate those contributions to impacts on the street network.

-- Any action by the Legislature to raise the state fuel tax should include a portion dedicated to local transportation infrastructure.

-- The City Council should pursue a charter change clarifying the authority of, and process for, the City to impose fees and service charges.

City officials released a statement in response to the BGR report, saying they're looking at multiple options for funding the infrastructure work with the help of the "Fix My Streets Financing Working Group."

The City recognizes that a significant amount of funding is needed to address to address New Orleans’ long-term infrastructure needs. That’s why Mayor Landrieu established the Fix My Streets Financing Working Group in 2015 and hired the PFM Group to analyze available funding sources to pay for the much needed repairs. We are committed to working with them to find viable solutions.  

To read the BGR's full report, click here.