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Mayor Cantrell says labor shortage and inflation are to blame for roadwork delays

Published: Jun. 23, 2022 at 10:38 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - The City of New Orleans must spend $2.4 billion in FEMA money before 2024, or risk losing it. Part of that spending is for infrastructure needs, which include road repairs.

On Tuesday, Mayor Latoya Cantrell said she plans on pushing forward with the road projects currently active and planned to meet deadlines.

“We’re on a path to continue to push projects to notice to proceed which has to happen in order for those dollars to stay with that project,” said Cantrell. “Now this is if we’re sticking with the current deadline in place now 2023.”

With less than two years left to spend that money, Cantrell said there have been some delays to the work.

“It was taking in some instances 12 months plus for projects to go through an archeological review,” she said. “And there were many other issues as well in terms of going out to bid, and the scopes and that, and re-engineering.”

She mentioned projects had to be redesigned to include other streets that may be impacted by the specific repairs.

“So we wanted to make sure not only that we allocate or spend the federal dollars but also matched it with some bond money,” she said. “So we were going into that neighborhood and FEMA work only covered two blocks that we can go ahead and say cover the next two because it makes sense and the needs were still in that community, so there are many different issues that we found that we had to tackle these problems and also just getting the state to work with us and FEMA so that they could front some of the dollars so that we can move the projects forward.”

Cantrell said by working with the state on funding has allowed the projects to move out of the door sooner rather than later until the city is reimbursed by FEMA.

“There have been multiple things that we’ve had to do to get from less than one percent to over 50% of these dollars being spent.”

Coming off a pandemic hasn’t helped either. Cantrell mentioned a labor shortage, supply chain issues and inflation are all causing delays to current road work projects.

“We’re starting to see either no responses to bids, one response to a bid, or the bid comes back or the project comes back where it’s exceeded our budget anywhere from 40% to 89&.”

She said all of these things are having an impact on completing projects, and predicts her administration will have to make some tough decisions due to the budget and city financials.

Although the deadline is before 2024, Mayor Cantrell said she plans to ask FEMA for more time. She’s hoping for an additional two years to spend the $2.4 billion on roadwork and other infrastructure projects.

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