NEW ORLEANS -- In a new report released by the Office of Inspector General, Orleans Parish ranked among the deadliest in the state from 2013-2015 for pedestrian fatalities.
In 2015 and 2014, there were 13 pedestrian fatalities in Orleans parish. In 2013, there were a total of 14 pedestrian fatalities.
Orleans Parish also ranked high in pedestrian injuries from 2011 to 2015, according to the report. East Baton Rouge and Jefferson parishes were ranked the next most dangerous places for pedestrian injuries.
Additionally, the state of Louisiana had the fifth-highest pedestrian fatality rate in the country from 2003 to 2012.
The study took a thorough look at the City's Master Plan in regard to walkability and shared use of pedestrian walkways as well as the status of crosswalk signals and their upkeep.
An example of their research included reference to a study on crosswalk timers.
"According to a 2008 report by the Federal Highway Administration, adding a pedestrian crossing signal to an intersection where none previously existed reduced the chances of a crash involving a pedestrian by 50 to 55 percent.
Additionally, the FHA's report concluded that pedestrian signals with a countdown timer letting people know how much time they had to cross the street decreased the chance of a crash involving a pedestrian by 25 percent.
As of early 2016, only 13 percent of crosswalks signals at intersections in New Orleans had pedestrian crossing signals, the OIG says.
In response to the study, city spokesperson Hayne Rainey said safety is a top priority for residents and visitors.
"The City is already hard at work implementing solutions to improve pedestrian accessibility across New Orleans," Rainey said.
"At this time, the City’s Department of Public Works is implementing its Americans with Disabilities (ADA) Transition Plan to better ensure the public right-of-way is readily accessible to and usable by pedestrians, especially those with disabilities."
The city is currently installing nearly 500 new pedestrian signals and crosswalk timers at 44 highly-trafficked intersections in the CBD. Those installations are expected to be completed this fall.
In total, $1.3 million is being invested in this major upgrade which is also addressing underground utility and wiring issues, Rainey said.
"Right now, a historic infrastructure improvement program is underway across New Orleans to repair roadways and the public right-of-way," Rainey said. "As part of this work, the City will be continuing to reconstruct and refurbish thousands of curbs, re-surfaced streets, passageways and sidewalks."
A large portion of money allocated to roads and infrastructure is tied up in the ADA Transition Plan. At least $24 million of the $2.4 billion is going toward ADA-compliant ramps that are being installed over the next several years.
"Furthermore, all infrastructure improvements are designed in accordance with the City’s Complete Streets Ordinance to encourage easy travel for all users, including motorists, bicyclists, bus and streetcar riders, pedestrians and the disabled," Rainey said.
“Without additional funding specifically for pedestrian crossing signals, however, it will be difficult to expand this program further.”
The OIG is recommending the City develop a policy to increase the number of pedestrian crossing signals in New Orleans.
(© 2017 WWL)