A Bumpy Road for New Orleans: Addressing the Street Network

• Bureau of Governmental Research

On July 22, 2014, hundreds of citizens and a number of government officials turned up at a citywide meeting hosted by the Fix My Streets campaign and the Lakeview Civic Improvement Association to discuss options for addressing New Orleans’ bumpy street network. The dialogue centered on the need to determine the condition of city streets, to devise a rational approach to prioritizing and paying for roadwork, and to uncover new funding sources to meet the enormous costs. A key point in the discussion was the need to bring more properties into the tax base.

BGR has in recent years grappled extensively with the issues surrounding the city’s failing streets and other infrastructure needs. To inform the current dialogue on these issues, we have created this online portal to provide the public with easier access to several key BGR reports.

The first, Street Smarts: Maintaining and Managing New Orleans’ Road Network (2008), discussed the weaknesses in the city’s management of its street network and described what a good pavement management system looks like. It also explored several funding options.

The second report, The Price of Civilization: Addressing Infrastructure Needs in New Orleans (2010) arose out of a concern that the city’s infrastructure needs were receiving inadequate attention. It described the city’s capital needs and the factors that affect the local capacity to meet those needs.

A third report focused on a particular exemption that is ripe for reform. The Nonprofit Margin: Addressing the Costs of the Nonprofit Exemption in New Orleans (2011) estimated the impact of the nonprofit exemption and discusses the range of options for mitigating that impact.

Also included here is a related release focusing on the city’s tax base.

As BGR noted in The Price of Civilization, the infrastructure funding gap underscores the importance of carefully marshaling and spending what was available. It is essential to re-evaluate and strategically deploy limited available resources and to develop a coherent, prioritized citywide plan for addressing unmet infrastructure needs. It is also essential to find ways to bring sanity to exemptions and broaden the pool of contributors to the revenue base in Orleans Parish. Going after the same group of taxpayers again and again will not solve our problems.

* Subsequent to this post, BGR issued a report taking a comprehensive look at the revenue structure in Orleans Parish. The $1 Billion Question examines how much revenue various sources generate, how the revenue is allocated, and the extent to which the revenue is dedicated to specific purposes. In addition, BGR released Paying for Streets analyzing options for funding street maintenance in New Orleans.

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