It’s no secret that the roads in New Orleans are in bad shape. Drive a few blocks in any direction, and you’ll come across one of the city’s famous, “car-killer” potholes. Every few weeks, a story pops up – usually something humorous about the way a local has attempted to draw the city’s attention to the problem on their street. People have tried anything from filling potholes with Mardi Gras beads to giving up and using them as swimming pools. One gutsy resident even broke the law by filling in a pothole on her street herself.
And it’s not just potholes. Everywhere you look there is cracked and uneven pavement, manholes that have pushed up far above the street, and orange cones or barrels cordoning off hazards made by the city itself. That’s right – a lot of the city’s pavement problems are caused by that entity everyone loves to hate: New Orleans’ Sewerage and Water Board.
It’s obvious that getting the roads fixed is top on residents’ list of priorities. When Domino’s Pizza announced in June that it was going to be giving grants to cities across the United States to fix potholes, New Orleans wasn’t on their list. However, people from all over the city petitioned the company, sending in letters, pictures, and filling out request forms. And it worked; a few days ago, the pizza chain announced it wanted to give $5,000 to the public works department to help them fix potholes across the city.
So what gives? If it’s clear to the residents that this is a problem, and even a pizza chain has taken notice, surely this must be one of the city’s top priorities, right?
In the 2018 Adopted Budget for New Orleans, former mayor Mitch Landreau touted the fact that $3 million had been allocated for fixing potholes across the city. But that is less than half of the $10 million allocated to road and pavement restoration. And it’s far, far less than the more than $11 million that the city has allocated for parking enforcement – which is expected to net the city more than $42 million in income this year.
Then there is another concern – while the Department of Public Works has teamed up with the Sewerage and Water Board to fix broken and cracked pavement across the city, many of those issues were caused by the S&WB to begin with. There are several accounts of the S&WB tearing out sections of pavement in order to fix a leak or drainage problem under the street, only to leave those sections missing for weeks or months afterwards. The S&WB often cites their ongoing budget issues for why they’ve left these gaping holes.
Perhaps they should borrow from the parking enforcement income? Or, perhaps instead of installing yet more new streetcar lines (which many residents do not want), and hiring more than 100 of it’s 215 Public Works employees as parking enforcement officers, the city could concentrate on the issue it’s citizens do care about: fixing our roads.