Community members question timeline of city construction projects

Abbey Hebert, Staff Writer

Living on Octavia Street in Uptown New Orleans, marketing sophomore Preslie Boswell said she is always hearing sounds of construction as she tries to relax in her home.

While Boswell said they are looking forward to the improved roadway, progress has seemed to stall. However, this is not just happening on Octavia Street: progress on projects across the Uptown area have slowed, according to From dirt and sand being thrown around the street along with difficulties parking, Boswell said the constant construction is a nuisance.

“It makes it very inconvenient for my roommates and everyone else around us,” Boswell said.

Director of the Special Projects and Strategic Engagement Office for Roadwork NOLA Nakeila Polk said construction in New Orleans is challenging due to the age and location of the city.

“There are extenuating circumstances on almost every project because we live in a 300-year-old city,” she said. “Essentially, we open the grounds by Pandora’s Box. We’re always running into having to add things to the projects.”

Polk said that while doing construction, contractors have realized there are infrastructure issues blocks away that could affect the success of their current project. As a result, Polk said both the Department of Public Works and the contractors must redesign the streets and send it to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for approval.

“We have to go into a redesign basically because streets aren’t just arbitrarily built,” she said. “They have to be redesigned. So then we add that into the project, which kinda contributes to projects taking longer than anticipated.”

Polk said the Department of Public Works recently implemented task-ordered based contracts, meaning contractors will have to complete a certain number of their assigned blocks before moving onto their next construction project.

She added that the construction projects are funded through a settlement that FEMA had with New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina. She said this settlement requires a community meeting before construction begins.

“We’ll hold the community meeting so the residents can meet us, meet the person that would be their point of contact through construction, meet the construction company and meet the design team from the Department of Public Works and the Sewerage and Water Board,” she said. “And then, construction will start.”

Polk said before construction begins, the contractors must perform environmental tests on the soil. She also said correctly paving the road takes 2-3 rounds.

Polk said there are currently 57 road work projects under construction with an estimated value of nearly $634 million. She also said since May 2018, the Department of Public Works has completed 134 projects with an estimated value of $425 million.