NEW ORLEANS -- After nearly three decades, the Lakefront will once again be open to traffic in both directions on weekends.
A committee of the Non-Flood Protection Authority that oversees Lakeshore Drive voted Wednesday night to lift the ban after hearing impassioned pleas from supporters and opponents.
"It was great. Everybody was out here," said Joseph Grenner.
The sunshine and cool temperature beckoned him to the Lakefront on Wednesday.
The New Orleans native remembers when Lakeshore Drive use to be open to traffic in both directions. But, decades-old westbound traffic ban on weekends between Marconi Drive and St. Bernard Avenune has been sparking controversy.
"No matter their color, no matter what their class, no matter where they live in the city, these streets should be accessible to everyone," said Community Voice Vice President Vanessa Gueringer during public comment at Non-Flood Protection Asset Management Authority Recreation Committee meeting.
"The safety of the residents and the pedestrians, and the bicyclists, people with strollers, that is what should be paramount," said Lakeshore Property Owners Association President David Myers.
For at least two hours, the committee heard pleas from community members in favor and against opening up Lakeshore Drive to traffic on weekends.
"It is still a public safety issue. I can guarantee you if it's opened up, it'll become the expressway," said one local resident.
"These streets are public streets. Everyone in here pays taxes. It should not be inaccessible to anyone," said another New Orleans resident.
During the meeting city officials, state lawmakers and community and civic groups voiced their opposition to the current ban that has been in place since the early 1980s.
Other groups like Bike Easy and neighborhood associations suggested striking a compromise: reducing traffic to two lanes in both directions and incorporating designated bike lanes for pedestrians, runners and bikers.
In the end, commissioners voted in favor of opening Lakeshore Drive in both directions, but the question now is how to make the area safe for both motorists and those like Grenner, who enjoy a little spring recreation on the Lakefront.
"It's beautiful man. A lot of people wished they had something like this in other states," said Grenner.
The authority also voted to create a special committee to come up with a long-term design plan along Lakeshore Drive for motorist and recreational traffic. The group has 90 days to report to the authority.