Bill Capo / ActionReport

NEW ORLEANS -- Executives at Ochsner Baptist Medical Center were all smiles, and carrying a bottle of champagne. They've been saving it for the finish of a major street repair project, and that time is almost here.

Jena Street, the conduit from Claiborne Avenue to the hospital, and where the parking lot entrance is located, is a construction site now, and that is why they're excited.

'We've been waiting, and we're near breaking that bottle of champagne,' smiled Ochsner Baptist Assistant Vice President Ava Jo Collins. 'As you can see progress is happening today, and we expect to be finished with this roadwork in just a couple of weeks.'

But this is why they called me last year. At that time, Jena was a nearly impassable collection of potholes, giving cars and drivers, especially those in ambulances, a rocking, bouncing ride to the hospital. Executives had been pleading with the city for repairs since 2006.

'It's very dangerous to start off with,' Ochsner Baptist Anesthesiologist Dr. Glenn Casey said last year. 'If you're not aware of the potholes that are there, you could easily break your axle, and have a flat tire.'

'It's a rough ride down there,' Ochsner Baptist CEO Rob Wolterman said then. 'They are bouncing all around in the back of an ambulance.'

This project took a long time. The first Action Report was done a year ago this month. At that time city officials told me the bids would be opened and the work started in the fall. It actually didn't start until the spring.

But the important thing is that now the doctors, patients, and staff here can see the changes that are coming.

'It's great to see the progress, you know,' said Ochsner Baptist CEO Brad Goodson. 'First I want to thank you. I want want to thank the administration in conjunction with Mitch Landrieu for making this happen. But yeah, it is great to see some progress happen. It is going to mean all the world to Ochsner Baptist.'

'The medical staff of Ochsner Baptist is very excited about what's going on around here,' said Dr. Casey. 'The ease of accessibility for our patients to get into the office as well as the hospital makes all the difference in the world.'

Construction crew members say they should be finished within two weeks, and then it'll be time to pop that champagne cork.

'It really sends a message to people that we're back alive, and we're wide open,' said Goodson.

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