NEW ORLEANS – Fog expected to roll in to the area overnight Wednesday could make for dangerous driving conditions, especially on large, dark stretches of Interstate 10 in New Orleans East and Gentilly.
Driving on I-10 in New Orleans East can be nerve wracking for those like Gerald Lee.
“Going to New Orleans, there's approximately five miles of no lights,” said Lee.
There are large areas where streetlights are broken on I-10 between Michoud Boulevard and St. Bernard Avenue. And that means potentially deadly driving conditions, especially in an area that's prone to fog.
“It's very thick fog in that area because there's water on both sides and it makes visibility very poor,” said Angelo Kingvalsky, a member of the Eastern New Orleans Advisory Commission.
In December of 2011, a deadly 40-car pile-up was blamed on poor visibility due to a combination of broken street lights, fog and smoke from a nearby marsh fire. Now lights are out again in that same area, plus half a dozen other sections of I-10, to the east of St. Bernard Avenue. Drivers say there have been ongoing outages on that stretch of interstate for years, causing accidents every time fog rolls in.
“[Drivers] are stopping, they have fender benders, they slide off the road,” said Kingvalsky.
Many drivers are also in the dark about when the problem will be fixed.
“We've pursued this for so many years and then there's nothing that's been done,” said Lee.
“It's serious it needs to be addressed,” said New Orleans East resident Khalil Aquil.
The city wouldn’t give Eyewitness News a specific timetable on when they plan to fix lights on the interstate.
"The safety of our residents and drivers remains a top priority and the City works to restore outages on an ongoing basis," said city press secretary Tyler Gamble in a statement.
The city blames outages on aging infrastructure, the location of the streetlight poles near ramps on interchanges and theft of copper wiring.
Those like Lee hope the lights are fixed soon, but in the meantime he plans to be extra cautious on his early morning commute as the fog rolls in.
“You want to do the best that you can do to remain safe and stay alive,” said Lee.
There are 4,100 streetlight outages across the city--the lowest since Hurricane Katrina, according to Gamble. The city owns 50,000 streetlights and repaired 19,000 outages last year.