City Council vote on ‘Bus Rapid Transit’ plan deferred amid Algiers traffic concerns

A New Orleans City Council committee on Tuesday (Feb. 14) postponed a vote on the RTA’s Bus Rapid Transit proposal at the request of Councilman Freddie King III, who said his Algiers constituents are concerned about the traffic congestion they’ll face if vehicles lanes are dedicated to buses only on the Crescent City Connection and on Gen. de Gaulle Drive.

The BRT proposal also would affect West Bank residents of Jefferson, Plaquemines and St. Charles parishes, as they, too, rely on the Crescent City Connection to travel two and from downtown New Orleans, Councilman King said.

“And taking away a lane of the CCC — Crescent City Connection — or dedicate the HOV to only buses I think would be detrimental to the residents of the West Bank,” Councilman King said during Tuesday’s meeting.

“About two weeks ago, the HOV was down for a week, and traffic going across the river (to the east bank) was horrible for those who live on the West Bank,” he said, citing HOV lane closure for maintenance during the week of Jan. 23.

“And the residents on the West Bank told me, expressed to me that, ‘If this is what we got to look forward to every day, then ‘I’m out. I’m out of the West Bank. I’m leaving.’”

Likened to a light-rail transit system, the BRT proposal is intended to carry bus riders from New Orleans East and Algiers more rapidly, more reliably and more frequently to the downtown New Orleans area, where some 80,000 people work, according to the RTA.

Dedicated bus lanes appear to be an inseparable component of the BRT system. Dedicated lanes allow transit busses to bypass traffic congestion.

Yet, RTA officials say no decisions have been made on dedicated lanes, including whether the bridge’s HOV lanes would be used strictly for buses (including school buses and emergency vehicles).

At issue on Tuesday was a vote to approve the streets that would be part of the BRT line, called the “Locally Preferred Alternative” route. The West Bank leg of the BRT, according to the proposal in its current form, would include a portion of Gen. de Gaulle and the Crescent City Connection.

Identifying this route is an apparent step needed in applying for federal money to help build the BRT line, estimated to cost as much as $350 million.

The RTA board of commissioners has approved of the route the line would follow. The City Council’s Transportation Committee deferred the vote at Councilman King’s request. The matter is expected to be before that committee or another one within a month.

Lona Edwards Hankins, the RTA’s interim chief executive, said Tuesday’s vote would not include approving lanes, “just adopting the streets” the BRT route would follow.

“It is a thought, an idea that needs to be further studied,” she said. “And that’s all we’re asking for, further studying this.”

She also said the RTA is communicating with officials in Jefferson Parish about its plans.

Councilman King asked to postpone a committee vote until he can speak further with RTA officials. At-large Councilwoman Helena Moreno supported Councilman King’s request. The committee is expected to revisit the RTA’s request in March, as the RTA must provide a letter of intent to the federal government to request funds in early April.

The RTA has held two informational meetings in Algiers, in January and in July 2022, each attended by more than 60 residents. “The consensus is, it’s not wanted on the West Bank,” Councilman King said.

“I don’t think it’s a bad idea,” Councilman King said generally of the BRT proposal.

“But I’m not support of it if it takes away a lane of de Gaulle or if takes away the HOV and makes it dedicated to buses only.”

In terms of numbers, public comments made in person and online for Tuesday’s meeting overwhelmingly favored the BRT proposal, including an in-person comment provided by Jim Goodwin, president of the Algiers Point Association.

Click here to watch the Transportation Committee’s meeting.

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