Work on interstate street lights is underway in New Orleans, and the Department of Public Works says its first priority is New Orleans East. On Tuesday, crews were in the area of the I-10 Michoud exit.
Overall, the city says it has identified 800 outages along the interstate system in New Orleans, but the first focus area will extend from the Orleans-St. Tammany Parish line, to the high rise in Gentilly.
Work includes not only replacing bulbs that aren't working, but upgrading the light infrastructure, and the city says it's working with Entergy to get that done. Lt. Col. Mark Jernigan, director of Public Works, says Entergy, for example, operates a transformer that also was out between the Read and Bullard exits that was not providing power to about 80 street lights. The city says in that case, it has worked with Entergy, and they've repaired the transformer.
In previous FOX 8 Defenders investigations, we've reported that part of the problem in New Orleans East is that vandals were stealing the copper wiring.
"The crews ... as they're rebuilding feedpoints and the electrical structure of the electrical boxes, they're gonna be banding the electrical boxes using more of a passive defense measure to make it harder for anyone to get into the box to steal the conduit," explained Jernigan.
"You cannot see anything. You see lights and then all of a sudden, boom and no lights. You're in darkness, and that is the worst thing to drive through something like that," said Myra Mitchell Solomon, a New Orleans East resident. The Defenders have highlighted stretches of I-10 that are so dark, when the sun goes down, it's almost like a light switch goes off.
The city says $1.7 million for street light improvements in excess capital funding will help repair the system. The city expects the New Orleans East repairs to take 60 to 90 days. Lighting on Interstates 510 and 610 will come after that, Jernigan said.