MacArthur lane merge modified at Kabel, other changes made

Less than a year after MacArthur Boulevard was dramatically redesigned under the Moving New Orleans – Bikes program, the thoroughfare saw yet another modification during the first week of 2022.

A four-lane thoroughfare that for decades has tied more than five suburban neighborhoods to the rest of Algiers and beyond, MacArthur’s car-carrying capacity was halved in early 2021 thanks to the bicycle-centric program.

MacArthur now has two lanes between Kabel and Woodland drives and two “protected bike lanes” that residents say lack the bicycle traffic that would justify the expense and the need.

During the week of Jan. 3-7, 2022, contractors made changes to the eastbound lanes between Kabel and Hyman Place, where MacArthur’s transition from two lanes to one takes place. The lane merge as originally designed and installed last year apparently presented safety concerns. This week, city contractors extended the merge for the full block.

We at the OSOC Coalition aren’t sure why the lane merge was extended, although those of us who regularly drive through the area know the pitfalls. An observer on Friday, Jan. 7, saw several motorists speed up in jockeying to get ahead of other motorists before two lanes are reduced to one. That’s no different than before the redo. It just happens further down the street.

Contractors removed bollards and used a grinding tool to remove the paint that was applied to the concrete less than a year ago — leaving behind a flurry of paint particles. The new design also meant the loss of several on-street parking spaces near Hyman.

The city announced the changes on Aug. 6, 2021. In a statement, Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s administration said it was making the changes “based on community feedback and engagement.” It’s unclear what specific feedback the city refers to, as residents who live on MacArthur and use the boulevard daily seek far more extensive changes. And we at OSOC Coalition have been very vocal in our opposition to the entire MacArthur redesign.

The city also allowed for the redesign of the eastbound lanes of MacArthur in its 4300 and 4400 blocks, basically from the rear of the Winn-Dixie to Kabel Drive. That means bollards were removed and curbside parking is restored at 10 residences. The city hasn’t clearly explained the rationale publicly, other than to say that it considers various factors when deciding which types of bike lanes are appropriate.

“These factors include the presence of driveways, the impacts of on-street parking, the lack of convenient on-street parking within walking distance, and the continuity of design,” the city said in August 2021. 

We’d say that describes all of MacArthur.

Elsewhere, in an apparent cosmetic upgrade, city contractors applied new green paint to the bike lane at the southwest corner of MacArthur and Holiday Drive.

Days before Christmas 2021, meanwhile, contractors began installing concrete barriers between the bollards on MacArthur, beginning at Holiday Drive. The city says these barriers will be mixed with bollards on MacArthur to Woodland.

At some point this year, the Department of Public Works will release a report based on MacArthur’s “traffic volumes, speeds, crash types and frequencies, as well as other metrics to evaluate the effectiveness of the current layout,” account to the city’s August 2021 statement.

“Based on these data, the Department of Public Words (DPW) will assess whether traffic safety, congestion and multi-model utilization rates have been adversely impacted by the current design.”

Presumably, the city will include a count of bicyclists who use MacArthur’s protected bike lanes.

This assessment, in fact, is mandated by New Orleans’ “Complete Streets” ordinance.