In The News › New Orleans: The Streets That Care Forgot

Oct 27, 2008

Source: New Orleans CityBusiness

Filed under: Infrastructure, Orleans Parish

New Orleans: The Streets That Care Forgot

New Orleans: The streets that care forgot
by Mark Singletary

I wonder if Baton Rougers feel nine times more loved than we New Orleanians do.

I know they’re not nine times smarter, prettier, nicer or more deserving, but somehow the city fathers of Red Stick show their citizens a whole lot more love than we get from ours.

How so?

The city of New Orleans spends about $3 million every year fixing our streets, and in Baton Rouge they spend in the neighborhood of $26 million. The streets, the cars and the drivers of Baton Rouge should feel a lot better off than automobiles and people in New Orleans.

The Bureau of Governmental Research, one of my favorite think tanks, released a road maintenance report this month. We covered the report and highlighted the significant features, but there are some very important points I want to further explore.

In a nutshell, the BGR study indicates there are several things a city like New Orleans can do to fix broken-down roads and ensure the good roads they have don’t go bad. New Orleans does none, or at the very most, few of those things.

We have about 1,600 miles of streets in our city, as does Baton Rouge. Portland, Ore., has about 2,100 miles of city streets. Here’s where the story gets sad.

Portland spends $50 million every year on road repairs, or more than $23,000 per mile, per year. Baton Rouge per-mile repair and maintenance spending comes out to $16,500 every year, again and again and again.

Our spending per mile, per year is $1,875 — a really pathetic number.

The report says we need a plan. We don’t have one.

The report says we need a team. We don’t have one.

Our Department of Public Works has 160 employees, but 120 of them work in parking enforcement. That’s right, parking enforcement.

We have 120 smiling faces walking, riding and scooting around town writing parking tickets. Parking ticket revenues go into the general fund and go to pay for crime cameras, 311 contracts, garbage disposal, libraries, the mayor’s office phone, his driver’s salary and his lunch dates at Morton’s Steak House.

All of those important city general budget expenditures don’t leave much for road repairs.

So, we really, really need a plan.

We need something called a pavement management system. This would ensure we know what work needs to be done, when and how it will be paid for, and who will actually do the work.

We need to fund preventative maintenance and rehabilitation. Duh.

It’s amazing the smart people from BGR had to waste time and ink to put this down on paper. One would think a 5-year-old could figure out roads decay and it costs money to fix them up. But this report wasn’t aimed at pre-schoolers; it was aimed at our mayor and city council.

We need to set strategic priorities. Yes, we do.

According to the report, New Orleans only has the basic tools for maintaining working lists for streets that need to be fixed. I’ve got an idea. Why don’t we just put them all on the list. I really can’t think of a single street that doesn’t need some significant repair work done.

And there’s the issue of coordination.

Most cities, it seems, try to coordinate the work that is done for utility maintenance with a schedule of road repair work. Or if they can’t do a coordinated effort, there is a mechanism for charging the utility a reasonable fee to cover the cost of tearing up and replacing roadways.

Here again, great idea, but one that hasn’t taken hold in New Orleans just yet.

It’s really sad so much energy and brainpower has to be wasted on a study like this. One would hope department managers, city council members, mayors, chief administrators, directors of public works, fire chiefs, police superintendents, meter maids and librarians would all feel compelled to tell someone when they drive down a street that needs work, many times a lot of work just to get the street to be deplorable.

One would think it must happen, except it apparently doesn’t.

We need a plan, and the plan needs some attention and some money.•

Publisher Mark Singletary can be reached at 293-9214, by fax at 832-3570 or by e-mail at

Oct 27, 2008

Source: New Orleans CityBusiness

Filed under: Infrastructure, Orleans Parish

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