NEW ORLEANS — New Orleans neighbors have been complaining for some time now about stalled street projects in front of their homes.
The process of rebuilding 400 miles of crumbling and pothole-filled roadways has been painful.
“It’s around the corner to my left,” Mid-City neighbor Stephanie Cundon said. “It’s around the corner to my right. So, it seems to me that they start projects and just never finish them.”
“What are the timelines?” Mid-City neighbor Elsa Luvness asked. “We have no idea. We just wait and see what’s going on. There’s no communication about that.”
Dennis Terry in Lakeview says work on Milne Boulevard in front of his house has been stalled since November.
“At one point it was drainage,” Terry said. “Then it was FEMA approval. Then it was they had to redesign, and the redesign was done. Now it’s elevation and I’m told they’re redesigning again.”
City Councilman Joe Giarrusso says when projects go over the expected timeline and neighbors are not getting a response from the contractor, that’s when you run into problems.
“Let’s avoid the problems of we didn’t realize there was a drainage issue,” Giarrusso said. “We didn’t realize the sewerage pipe is busted. All of the pipes are going to be in that condition. We know that at this point.”
The city is now limiting the number of blocks a contractor can work on at a time. If that work isn’t substantially completed within a specified period of time, the contractor can’t dig up any additional blocks until the work is done.
“I get the idea that there’s going to be pain,” Giarrusso said. “But then there ought to be deadlines attached to what the pain is, right.”
A city spokesman sent a written statement about the Milne Boulevard construction delays.
“Last summer, the contractor began authorized water line work in the 6700 and 6800 blocks of Milne. Then in September 2021, the contractor began excavating the roadway without proper authorization and before the designer could approve the existing and proposed grade elevations. As a result, work was immediately shut down by the city and the contractor was directed to develop a plan to address the error.”
“The City acknowledges that it has taken far too long for the contractor to develop a solution and we are in the process of addressing the issue. Next week, Department of Public Works leaders, the designer and construction contractor will meet on site to work through the challenges that have prevented work from continuing. Once the solution is determined, the repairs will be covered by the contractor since the work was unauthorized.”
For now, Terry says he feels like his street is left in limbo.
“The hard part is you don’t have any real information to know when this is going to end,” Terry said.
Councilman Joe Giarrusso said the new city council is already looking at ways to hold contractors more accountable. The ideas include a new system to grade contractor and building a computer dashboard showing where the work is being done, when it’s supposed to be completed and what’s in progress.
“The contractors need to be doing their jobs and everything they’re supposed to, but we own the contracts and then therefore making sure the contractors are abiding by those,” Giarrusso said.
The city is also in the final stages of developing its own contractor performance analysis that will include publicly reporting contractor ratings on a monthly basis on roadwork.nola.gov.