FOX 8 DEFENDERS FOLLOW-UP: I-10 Barrier project slated for N.O. East

There’s a project in the works to better protect neighborhoods that border I-10 in New Orleans East. Tonight the FOX 8 Defenders update a story we brought you nearly two years ago on what one homeowner calls a dangerous house.
Published: Aug. 16, 2021 at 10:36 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 16, 2021 at 10:37 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - It’s the busiest roadway in and out of New Orleans, and while the speed limit is 60mph, drivers often go much faster.

“They’re doing 75 and 80 (mph) a lot of the times,” Lake Forest Estates homeowner Ted Franklin said.

A chain link fence is all that separates some residential neighborhoods in New Orleans East from Interstate 10. Now, the Louisiana Department of Transportation says protection is about to get a lot stronger.

“We’re in the middle of completing a design project where we will be installing concrete and cable barrier rails of the outside shoulders of Interstate 10 along this corridor,” DOTD’s Assistant District Administrator of Operations Scott Boyle said.

He said ultimately, concrete or cable barriers will extend from the Chef Highway exit, near the foot of the High Rise, all the way to I-510 or Paris Road, and that’s on the shoulders of both the East and Westbound lanes. In many spots, if a vehicle goes off I-10, people and homes are at risk. It’s something Lake Forest Estates homeowner Linda Johnson told us she’s experienced at least five times when we talked to her in November of 2019.

“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.

“I had my pelvis cracked.. that was the first one,” she explained.

Johnson remembers sitting in her driveway, which is adjacent to I-10, when a big rig plunged off the Interstate, travelled across the Service Road and into Johnson’s garage and driveway. Her vehicle was pinned between the truck and another car.

Besides her cracked pelvis, she says the truck driver had a medical issue. “He was driving a truck with a bad heart and high blood pressure so when he hit me, he died instantly,” Johnson said.

Since that accident in 2008, Johnson has been afraid to sit on her porch, work in the yard *and she’s uncomfortable inside.

There’s been other accidents since then like one where a pickup truck drove off I-10 and into her house. Her son was sitting in the living room. And she says there were other close calls this Spring and Summer.

Feeling helpless, she turned to the FOX 8 Defenders in 2019, and we looked for answers.

Back then, DOTD was studying projects that might improve the safety.

“Since they have installed these barricades, it gives us a little more sense of security and safety,” resident Dennis Scott told us in 2019.

At that time, he explained before the extra layer of protection bordering his neighborhood, his Lakewood East Homeowner’s Association documented more than 50 incidents of vehicles driving off the Interstate, damaging properties.

Fast forward two years, and we’re learning in addition to those 4,500 pound concrete barriers already installed along a section of I-10 East near the Morrison Exit, more will go up from Chef Hwy. to Crowder. DOTD says that’s where the highest crashes have been reported. Cable barriers will pick up at Crowder and continue to Paris Rd.

“We’ve been really looking at this, bringing in a team of people from different backgrounds and design and traffic operations and engineering to look at this to come up with a solution to try and mitigate some of these roadway departure crashes,” Boyle said.

In most circumstances, Boyle says the new barrier system will stop a vehicle that leaves the Interstate from travelling onto the Service Road, or in Linda Johnson’s case, beyond.

He’s seen the cable barrier in action along I-12 in Hammond. “It stopped an 18-wheeler going 70 miles an hour. It stopped it. It breaks the post, and it’s almost like a big rubber band.. and obviously steel cable isn’t that flexible,” Boyle said. He explained it absorbs the energy and captures the vehicle. In the case of the big rig in Hammond, Boyle said the cable barrier stopped it from crossing the median into oncoming traffic.

“I appreciate them thinking about us by putting up something for protection,” Franklin said. But even living a few houses from I-10, he’d rather see something much taller.

“All along the Interstate would look better if we had a wall... rather them those long wires and stuff like that. I think that we’re entitled to the same type of protection or whatever that uh.. that’s done in Metairie,” he said.

According to Boyle, sound walls are typically only installed through Federally funded projects and used to reduce noise after Interstate widening projects like the ones in Metairie.

In the meantime, DOTD anticipates the $7.5 million barrier project to go out for bid by the end of the year, and possibly get started in the Spring, giving Linda Johnson and many other families an extra layer of protection in the near future.

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