NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - Linda Johnson loves her Lake Forest Estates neighborhood in New Orleans East.
“But I have so many tragedies in this house,” she said.
Johnson explained she can’t enjoy her front porch or work in her yard. “I’m scared to come out here and trim the bushes,” Johnson said. She’s fearful even in her own living room.
“I’m very uncomfortable in my den, because that’s where a lot of accidents happen,” she said.
Terrifying memories and images often flash through her head. In the first of four tragedies that unfolded at her home, she suffered a cracked pelvis.
Johnson’s home is adjacent to Interstate 10 between the Read and Bullard exits.
“It was a tractor rig 52 feet long. He had a trailer on his back,” Johnson recalled. She remembered how she was sitting in her car in her driveway behind her house one day. “Yes, in my driveway, waiting for my daughter to bring me a paper and. he just came out of nowhere and hit us,” Johnson said.
A big rig headed East on I-10, where the speed limit is 60 miles per hour, plunged off the Interstate, across the Service Road, and into Johnson’s garage and driveway. Pictures of the accident show her car pinned between the big truck and her daughter’s car.
The truck driver had a medical issue, according to Johnson. “He was driving a truck with a bad heart and high blood pressure, so when he hit me, he died instantly,” she said.
Since that accident in 2008, Johnson has never been comfortable living in her home, and her family worries for her safety. "The really sad thing about it is that this is like the third or fourth time that this has happened," Brenda Holmes, Johnson's sister explained.
In 2010, Johnson told us a utility truck drove off the Interstate, hitting her house. “I was planting some flowers, and I got up to throw the flower pots away.. soon as I got up to make that turn, he plunged into the column and hit the house,” she said. Two weeks later, another driver ran a stop sign at the Service Road, t-boning a truck. That truck then plunged across the front of Johnson’s home, and the driver, upside down in his truck, was screaming for her to help get him out.
Then, earlier this year, she described what may have been the worst accident yet. Johnson was inside her home while her son and a friend were in their living room. “Everything that was on that back wall.. the bricks, entertainment, the tv, everything plunged on them,” she said.
The driver of a Toyota Tundra pickup truck had crashed through the brick wall on the side of her house and landed in her living room. "The only thing that stopped him.. the gas meter pipe that comes up from the floor that grabbed his truck," Johnson said. That damage to the gas line prompted an evacuation of the area according to Johnson.
A police report narrative details the driver was traveling in the far right lane headed East on I-10 when another vehicle cut him off. It says he ‘drove through the fences’.. ‘onto Wright Road’.. and ‘into the side of the Wright Road residence.’
Months later, the brick wall has been replaced although you can see the color isn’t an exact match. While her living room is renovated, her fears haven’t gone away. “I wish they would build a wall or something up here to help out,” Johnson said. Feeling helpless, she turned to the FOX 8 Defenders for answers.
“We are looking at that section on both sides (of the Interstate), and we’re looking at projects that we can do to benefit and improve safety,” Scott Boyle LA DOTD Assistant District Administrator of Operations.
He explained DOTD projects are data-driven so right now they’re studying why these crashes are occurring and looking at the need. “More than likely we’re looking at the concrete barriers.. the sound wall is something.. nothing is off the table. We are looking at devices that could provide protection where it’s needed,” Boyle said.
Just in the last year, the Department placed concrete barriers West of Johnson’s home along I-10 East between the Morrison and Crowder exits.
“Since they have installed these barricades, it gives us a little more sense of security and safety,” Dennis Scott with the Lakewood East Homeowner’s Association said. Scott says before that extra layer of protection his neighborhood documented more than 50 incidents of vehicles driving off the Interstate, damaging properties like a brick wall we found completely knocked down.
“The concrete barriers are more robust, and we feel that those can be a substantial deterrent from an errant vehicle leaving the Interstate,” explained Boyle.
Just one concrete barrier weighs about 4500 pounds, and the barriers are physically locked together with metal rods.
At this point, Linda Johnson welcomes anything. “I really like this area, but I wanna be safe because I don’t have a life sitting in my house,” she said.
A resolution isn’t going to happen overnight. A general timeline for a DOTD study and then funding could be two to three years, according to Boyle.
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