Frustration mounts over slow-moving Metairie drainage project

Published: Jul. 6, 2022 at 7:04 PM CDT
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METAIRIE (WVUE) - In Metairie, roadwork on Severn Avenue is causing a traffic nightmare for drivers and businesses in the area.

“They keep promising this year or next years and it’s impacting a lot of businesses,” said Linda Malek, owner of Mimi’s Children’s Boutique. “We have a store right next to Earth Savers-- Mimi’s Kids Boutique-- we’ve been seeing [sales] numbers that are horrible because people don’t want to come in [because of] the traffic.”

Jefferson Parish Councilwoman Jennifer Van Vranken says the $14 million drainage improvement project was intended to take two years to complete.

“[It was] always going to be a disruptive, lengthy process but now we’re into year three and that’s really where my concern comes in,” said Van Vranken.

It’s a massive project, she said, that the parish has been working toward for a number of years prior.

“It’s 80% federal funds and 20% Jefferson Parish funds,” she said. “It is a huge drainage improvement project. In addition, it will allow us to do things like add a protected bike lane on a portion of Severn, add pavers, add landscaping, really make this corridor what it should be.”

She said they are necessary improvements in an area of Metairie that desperately needs it. But now, the project seems to be dragging its feet.

“I’m always very mindful of the businesses. This is on their front doorstep and it’s interrupting them,” said Van Vranken.

Now she is requesting weekly meetings with the Department of Public Works to go over the project timeline and updates to keep progress moving forward.

Van Vranken said work crews ran into several unexpected delays over the last two years, adding over $1 million in additional costs to the overall project budget to resolve.

She said there was a conflict at the intersection of Veterans Boulevard and Severn Avenue regarding a drainage line not being installed properly. A second issue involved a water leak under the roadway causing the sand and soil to wash away.

In addition, 2021 proved to be a very active year for severe weather, causing more delays to progress.

“It’s frustrating. It’s really inconveniencing for not only us but for our customers,” said Milewelle Henry, who works at an eye clinic off Severn. “[Customers] call and it’s like, ‘If I can’t come across 17th Street’, they’re not coming to their appointment.”

Van Vranken said the intersection of Severn Avenue and 17th Street was scheduled to reopen to traffic in June, but as of July 6, it is still blocked and closed off.

“We do recognize that it’s been painful. It’s been disruptive. We are fully aware,” said Van Vranken. “We’re going to do everything we can to try and speed it up from here so it’s complete before the end of this year, hopefully. Early fall would be our goal.”

In a meeting on Wednesday, July 6, with Public Works, she said the current estimated time of completion is late October 2022.

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