Bill Capo / Eyewitness News
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NEWORLEANS-- They're cutting down the trees in the neutral ground of Jefferson Avenue between Claiborne and St. Charles avenues.

It's a two-week project, the first phase of a $52 million Army Corps of Engineers plan to improve drainage in this area.

'The goal is to get the water off the streets, off of people's yards, away from houses, buildings, vehicles at a quicker rate,' said Lori Wingate, a project manager with the Army Corps of Engineers.

To make that happen, contractors will dig a 300 feet long, 20 feet wide trench in the middle of Jefferson and install a giant concrete culvert underground designed to drain 9 to 12 inches of rain over 24 hours.

It's a mess, and it's going to be a mess for a long time. This is a 50-month contract, over four years, not scheduled to wrap up until 2017.

So why so long?

'Certain impacts will be felt in certain ways,' said Wingate, 'but not the entire 50 months for the entire length of the job. And the time frame is long because they have existing city services that we need to make sure they can keep in service during construction.'

'Four years?' asked one driver.

Construction will be a challenge for motorists and residents. First, no parking on Jefferson.

'When we're building the canal, there will be one lane only,' said Wingate. 'That'll be northbound on Jefferson Avenue. The remaining traffic will be diverted to Nashville Avenue.'

'Claiborne is such a mess now. That's why I came down Jefferson,' was the driver's reaction.

'It is, but it's on my street, so I'm happy about it,' countered a resident.

'Street crossings will be blocked, access to driveways temporarily will be blocked when we're in front of driveways,' Wingate said.

Other drainage projects are on schedule, with Napoleon to be completed in 2015, and Claiborne in 2016. In all, the Army Corps of Engineers and Sewerage & Water Board have cooperated on 16 drainage projects in Orleans Parish. Nine have been completed, and all the work is scheduled to be done by 2018.

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