Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Signs Of The Times

New Orleans will finally begin replacing damaged and missing streetsigns throught the city.

Navigating the post-Katrina streets of New Orleans should get easier with the launch of a months-long project Monday to replace thousands of traffic signs knocked down or swept away by Katrina.

City officials estimate that up to 20,000 signs -- from one-ways and yields to street names to parking and freight zones -- need to be replaced across the city.

As city officials have struggled to cut through mountains of red tape over the past year, many neighborhood residents have taken matters into their own hands, fashioning and hanging hand-painted signs themselves.

While FEMA has fronted the money to start the work, Public Works Director Robert Mendoza said City Hall and the federal agency remain about 10,000 signs and $1 million apart in determining replacement needs.

Ronnie Simpson, a spokesman for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said Monday that FEMA and the city are continuing to negotiate, but he couldn't provide specifics.

The sign initiative, which began Monday in the Garden District, Coliseum Square and Central City areas, is not scheduled to be completed until next spring.

Though signs were restored on major thoroughfares months ago, many main streets still lack functioning traffic signals. In most cases, those intersections have four-way stop signs.

Plans call for the sign replacement effort to move systematically through the city's 13 planning districts over the next six months.

Beginning next month and continuing though year's end, the program will move to the Uptown and Carrollton neighborhoods, followed by Marigny and Bywater; the French Quarter, the Central Business District and the Warehouse District; and upper Algiers.

In January, work crews will move to Lower Coast Algiers, followed in February by the Lakeview and the Lakefront, Gentilly and Pontilly and eastern New Orleans.

The Lower 9th Ward, one of the city's least populated and most heavily damaged areas, will be addressed in March.

The contractor performing the work is United Rental of Harvey. The firm monitoring the work is Integrated Management Systems Engineers.

City officials said sign crews are prioritizing their work based on safety concerns and will deal with individual citizen complaints as they come in. Anyone wishing to report a missing sign can call 658-2299.

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