By Domonique Tolliver, Mid-City Messenger
The Faubourg St. John Neighborhood Association met Tuesday (June 29) evening via Zoom with the city officials from Roadwork NOLA to discuss construction timelines and to answer questions about the ongoing road work projects in Mid City.
Beaux Jones, president of the Faubourg St. John Neighborhood Association, asked Nakeila Polk, community outreach specialist for Roadwork NOLA, about residents’ concerns over the roadwork timeline.
Polk said some work required more drainage and time than what FEMA originally identified, which adds to the timeline.
“Things are more messed up underneath at the sub-surface level than we anticipated. So timelines vary. Whenever you open up the ground in a city like New Orleans, it is Pandora’s box,” Polk said.
Polk said Roadwork NOLA is building a team to deal with the $600 million projects across the city as staffing shortages have impacted the ability to immediately respond to residents. Polk said the hiring freeze and furloughs didn’t help relieve the short staffing.
Participant Laura Scriba commented in the chat on the communication gaps. “It seems like ‘door to door’ may be the least effective way to communicate in our current work hours/ technology environment. Perhaps a text or phone based notification option would help a lot of people,” Scriba said.
Polk said Roadwork NOLA is working with NOLA Ready to create a text service for communication about roads and infrastructure.
“We understand that in New Orleans, there is a class gap and a technology gap. So we still have to keep our grassroots notifications as well as on our website and social media,” Polk said.
Polk said that Roadwork NOLA has been communicating within the community with schools to work around their summer schedules. Each of the three projects in the Mid City area is under three different contractors.
“In the contract, contractors are responsible for going door to door and notifying residents,” Polk said.
Jones emphasized to Polk that the contractors are not holding up their end of the deal when it comes to communication.
Jones said he has been alerted to several situations where construction started while a resident was out of town and once they got back, their car was trapped in their driveway. He went on to say that due to construction, residents moved their cars around the corner and after no-parking signs were put up and some cars were towed.
Residents should be notified 48 hours before full waterline closures and 24 hours before waterline test closures per Louisiana Department of Health guidelines.
“Whether there is room in the contract to make sure it’s being enforced or if there’s something that we can do to meet with the contractors, we are willing to help,” Jones said.
In its project outline, the Department of Public Works stated the $11.7 million FEMA-funded Bayou St John, Fairgrounds, Seventh Ward Group A project began March 2021 and will be completed in Summer 2022. The project is expected to take 14 months.
The Department of Public Works plans to repave some asphalt roadways from curb-to-curb and patch roadways with asphalt or concrete. The project intends to repair damaged sidewalks and driveway aprons and install Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant curb ramps at intersections. Another big project on the books is replacing and repairing damaged underground water, sewer and drainage lines.
While Polk had to leave the meeting early, she encouraged Jones to send residents’ questions and comments in a spreadsheet to her office to be answered.
Valerie Bouldin from the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Engagement was in the meeting to listen to residents’ concerns and be another resource to communicate residents’ needs to contractors.
Jones said meetings with Roadwork NOLA officials are a helpful communication for residents. “We think that the neighborhood associations and the infrastructure that has developed there are an opportunity to improve the communication, so people in our neighborhoods can know what’s going on with these projects,” Jones said.
Domonique Tolliver is a journalism student at Loyola University and a reporting intern at NOLA Messenger. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.