Lakeshore Drive closure sparks anger


by Bill Capo / Action Reporter

Posted on April 15, 2010 at 6:05 PM

Updated Thursday, Apr 15 at 6:43 PM

NEW ORLEANS - You couldn't pick a better time to enjoy the New Orleans lakefront but this spring much of Lakeshore Drive is closed and the Orleans Levee District is receiving angry calls from people who want to know why.

"It's been going on, it's got to be over six to eight weeks now, shut the whole thing down," said jogger Henry Provosty.

"This is disturbing here, because I thought it would have been open by now," said Darren Frith as he fished for catfish. "I thought they would have this side at least back open." 

Lakeshore Drive is closed because of the Army Corps of Engineers projects to raise the levees to the 100-year hurricane standard, which they say is over 90 percent complete. But in some areas the work takes place around the levee, not across Lakeshore Drive, but it is closed anyway.

Another problem is the erosion along the lakefront. In some cases winter storms have gouged deep trenches behind the seawall, even knocked concrete benches askew, but repairs are planned. 

"I would say within the next, sometime next week, or hopefully early next week, they can get some crews out there to start filling those holes," said Louis Capo of the Orleans Levee District. 

The Levee District and FEMA are working on plans to repair and restore the Mardi Gras Fountain, which had been renovated in 2005, only to be pounded by Katrina."The fountain is an integral part, and a main attraction to the Lakefront," Louis said.

But even when the fountain is repaired, it won't work. Neither will the streetlights all along Lakeshore Drive. Levee District officials say that's because the Corps has changed the way power lines cross the levee.

"Post Katrina, nothing can penetrate the levees, and now any utility that we need to bring on the unprotected side of the levee will have to run across the top," said Louis.

He says the Levee District can't afford the nearly two million dollar project. A Corps spokeswoman said it is a complicated issue, but that utilities are a local responsibility, so until that is resolved, Lakeshore Drive will stay dark, and be closed at night.

A Corps spokesman said no one was available to be interviewed for this report, but sent a statement saying public safety is a priority, there were design questions to solve, and various sections won't re-open until September or October. 

The Corps spokeswoman said more road closures could occur during construction. Anyone with questions can call the Corps' Construction Impacts Hotline toll free at 1-877-427-0345.