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Tania Dall / Eyewitness News
Email: tdall@wwltv.com | Twitter: @taniadall

NEW ORLEANS, La. -- Community members are questioning the timing of a major construction project near the Fairgrounds.

The Bayou Road Streetscape Project could start before Jazz Fest, much to the dismay of residents and businesses in the area.

'Businesses aren't really able to have customers come without stepping into puddles of water when it rains hard. All of the plants and benches are for not,' said Community Book Center owner Vera Warren-Williams.

On Tuesday night, neighbors met for the second time in two weeks to get an update from city officials on the Streetscape Project.

'Removing and replacing sidewalks, installing ADA compliant ramps, adding benches,' said New Orleans Public Works Director Colonel Mark Jernigan addressing the crowd.

The project is mostly focused on aesthetics, and will run along Bayou Road, between North Rocheblave and North Broad Streets.

The City says additions will also include new trees, park benches, bike racks, trash receptacles, new lighting, directional signage, crosswalk markings and ceramic street name tiles at intersections.

But some community members say the real problem is the street.

'Overall the sidewalks aren't the issue. The streets and the drainage is more of an issue,' said Warren-Williams during a question and answer period.

'You do the street and the sidewalk is lagniappe,' said Bob Burnaman, a Seventh Ward resident who has lived in the area since 2000. Burnaman feels the neighborhood's real needs aren't being factored into this project by the city.

'The merchants were a little concerned because we had not heard about it in several years. And we didn't feel like our input was taken into consideration,' added Warren-Williams.

However, the City says it is listening to the public.

On Tuesday night, Jernigan announced that two possible start dates are being considerd, one before, and the other, after Jazz Fest.

'This is going to adversely impact our businesses if you start this project before Jazz Fest. I have yet to hear one person say 'We hear what you said and this is what we're going do to',' said one business owner at the meeting.

The Streetscape Project is expected to cost around $700,000, and City officials say it will take about six months to complete.

A final decision on an appropriate start date is expected later this week.

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