Mid City: Can Government Street be transformed into the next Magazine Street?
(Photography by Cheryl Gerber: The Bulldog in New Orleans)
When asked about their hopes for Government Street, area business owners and residents often say they’d like it to be more like Magazine Street, the pedestrian-oriented community of boutiques, galleries and cafés in New Orleans. But in its current state, the roadway is much more conducive to driving past the local businesses than browsing.
The Mid City Merchants Association holds an annual White Light Night art hop, but the presence of shuttle vans and buses highlights the fact that the city’s main arts district isn’t very walkable. In 2013 the city turned part of Government Street into a “Better Block,” simulating a bike path, landscaping, street side parking, proper crosswalks and signage, and a popup coffee shop. But that was all a temporary setup for a single weekend.
But now, the state is planning a major revamp of Government Street from Interstate 110 to Jefferson Highway, so that it lives up to Louisiana’s new “Complete Streets” policy of making sure that roads effectively serve all appropriate users, not just drivers. The Department of Transportation and Development also wants to improve safety for automobiles; the agency says more than 800 crashes happened on that stretch of road during a three-year study period.
As currently conceived, the project consists of rehabilitating the existing pavement and putting Government on a “road diet,” reducing the number of travel lanes from four (two lanes in each direction) to three (one travel lane in each direction with a center two-way-left-turn-lane). A multimodal section of roadway could be added to accommodate bicycle lanes, on-street parking, wider sidewalks and/or bus turnouts.
The approaches to the Foster Drive intersection would remain as five lanes, and there would be two thru-lanes in the eastbound direction between Foster and Jefferson Highway. A single-lane roundabout at the intersection of Government and Lobdell Avenue is also proposed. Once the $7.5 million to $10 million project is complete, plans are to turn the road over to the city-parish.
Without taking a scientific poll, it does appear so far that most active Mid City stakeholders favor the road diet. There have been objections to reducing the number of travel lanes, but DOTD and project design consultant Stantec say the dedicated turn lane will improve traffic flow so that capacity isn’t reduced as much as one might think.
However, there is still time to raise objections and concerns. Once Stantec reviews and addresses DOTD’s comments on the safety and traffic analysis, a public meeting will be scheduled.