Claiborne Ave. drainage project cripples area businesses - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports

Claiborne Ave. drainage project cripples area businesses

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New Orleans, La. -

Some business owners wonder whether they'll survive a sweeping plan to beef up metro flood protection.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Sewerage and Water Board recently closed off the westbound side of S. Claiborne Avenue near the Orleans-Jefferson Parish line.  Now some business people in the area complain the detour makes it just about impossible for their customers to get to them.

"The gas station... It killed it, and I can show you the sales have dropped 60, 70 percent, right the next day," said Joe Gharib, owner of Discount Corner on S. Claiborne.

Two weeks ago, the Corps and S&WB began the two-phase drainage canal project on S. Claiborne, a project that's expected to last at least two years.  It's already affecting traffic flow for people who live in the area, and local businesses such as Discount Corner are in the middle of it all.

"Like in here, this lane right here, they say it's open, but as you can see it's not really open," said Gharib.

In just two weeks his business has been more than cut in half.  Gharib says he appreciates the work being done, but feels like there's no consideration for businesses.

"And there's road blocks on every street, even those that are one way, so you have to really go around in circles to try and figure out how to get in," said Brenda Lackings, who owns the Daycare next door.

Here's what the Corps plans to do.  In the first phase, engineers plan a canal, 20 feet wide and 10 feet high , from Monticello Avenue to Leonidas Street along the Claiborne Ave. neutral ground. The second phase will add a 9-foot-high canal from Leonidas Street to Lowerline Street.  Both phases will cost more than $55 million.

The goal is to reduce the chances of flooding in the area, providing additional flow for storm water coming in from surrounding neighborhoods.

"This is the main artery. Since we've been here, you can see maybe cars coming on the side street, but how many cars come through here?  None," said Gharib.

Gharib says, until there's a better traffic plan put in place, he's cutting hours to his eight employees, and closing his normally 24-hour shop overnight.

"So it's a good thing and a bad thing.  It's for the best, but it's hurting at the same time," said Discount Corner employee Daren Hopkins.

A spokesperson with the Sewerage and Water Board says they will meet with the business owners as soon as possible to try and reduce the impact to their businesses. We're told possible solutions include a new traffic plan and clear street signage.

Phase one is expected to be completed in late 2014; phase two is set for completion in mid 2016.

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