Drivers brace for congestion due to flood reduction project

Pump to the River project
People who drive along Jefferson Highway around Harahan, River Ridge and Elmwood should brace for traffic congestion soon.
It is because of a project designed to ease flood concerns for residents and businesses.
It is not unusual for heavy rains to cause street flooding in Elmwood, Harahan and parts of River Ridge and progress is being made to reduce the threat.
It is all part of the Pump to the River Project. Already, a giant pumping station is under construction and now pumps will be placed under roadways leading to the Mississippi River.
"Here's where the new pump station is being built, Lake Pontchartain up here and the river down here,” Rene Poche of the Army Corps of Engineers said Monday while pointing to a colorful map.
In all, it is a $100 million pump to the river project.
"That is going to help to reduce the flood risk in the Harahan, River Ridge, Elmwood areas,” Poche stated.
Harahan Mayor Tina Miceli believes the project is good for the area.
"It's something that's been long overdue for the entire area,” said the mayor.
But soon drivers in the area will notice some inconvenience.
On Monday, one of the eastbound lanes of Jefferson Highway at the intersection of St. Syr Street near Harahan City Hall to Hord Street was to be blocked off for construction work, but the city said the contractor called to say there would be a delay because of some other related street work.
Still, it will not be long before the lane blockage begins, something Harahan Police Chief Tim Walker is warning motorists to be aware of as more and more schools reopen.
"The traffic is going to back up tremendously. About that time the universities and the colleges, high schools will be open, people need to be on time going to work and going to school,” said the chief.
Poche spoke of the need to disrupt traffic patterns in the area.
"We have to put the discharge tubes, the drainage pipes underneath the highway, so it's going require some lane shifts, back and forth across there,” he said.
When complete, the project will shorten the trip for storm water to be removed from streets.
"Right now water has to be pumped about five miles north into Lake Pontchartrain from that area, with this new project it'll go about two miles south into the river,” Poche stated.
"This is only an extra benefit, a very needed extra benefit to ensure the safety of our citizens, of the property, property values,” said Mayor Miceli.
Even though Miceli is thrilled over the Pump to the River Project, she said there are some serious infrastructure needs in the City of Harahan and it is a message she took to members of Louisiana’s Congressional delegation recently.
"In order, to get the best benefit out of pump to the river we need a more adequate, better drainage system, so we're evaluating that, we're looking at funding,” she said.
But in the meantime, drivers should ready themselves for traffic snarls.
"I do believe when they close that one lane going eastbound that traffic is going to back up in Harahan and cause so more problem for us, traffic wise,” said Chief Walker.

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