Based on New Orleans’ “Bikeway Blueprint” for the city’s connected network of bicycle lanes, Gen. Meyer Avenue will be dramatically transformed. Algiers residents need only to look to MacArthur Boulevard to see what could be in store for Gen. Meyer: New bike lanes and fewer motor vehicle lanes.
Dr Shawn Wilson, Louisiana’s transportation secretary, has said that no decisions have been made about Gen. Meyer and Woodland. Traffic studies would have to be done to determine whether lane closures will be approved, he said.
Whatever becomes of Gen. Meyer, no work is expected to begin until next year, a spokesman for the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development told the Our Streets Our Choice Coalition on Friday (Jan.7, 2022).
“Prior to any design work taking place, it is estimated that the first phase of construction will begin in 2023 and the subsequent phases would begin roughly a year later,” LaDOTD spokesman Chris Welty said in communication with OSOC months before Secretary Wilson communicated with us.
Gen. Meyer Drive – also known as Louisiana 428 – is a four-lane state highway falling under the purview of the LaDOTD. It’s one of only two key east-west thoroughfares in Algiers, the other being Gen. de Gaulle Drive. Being closer to the Mississippi River, Gen. Meyer is on higher ground, making it a strategically important roadway when one considers New Orleans’ flooding vulnerabilities.
Like the City of New Orleans, the LaDOTD has a “Complete Streets” mandate requiring that bicyclists and pedestrians receive equal consideration to motorists whenever possible when it comes to roadway designs.
The city has used proceeds revenue bonds that New Orleans voters approved in 2016 to pay for bike lane conversions on municipal streets, such as MacArthur Boulevard. Welty said federal “urban systems” money would be used to pay for Gen. Meyer’s conversion.
Under “Complete Streets,” Gen. Meyer is expected to receive “protected bike lanes,” the type that Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s administration has installed on MacArthur Boulevard.
Welty indicated that the city has the lead on Gen. Meyer, even though it’s a state highway.
“While the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development will act as facilitators of the project, the design, schedule, and scope will be set by the City of New Orleans,” Welty told the OSOC Coalition.
The LaDOTD had planned to let contracts in August and September of 2022 to begin the first two phases of bike lane work on Gen. Meyer from Berhman Avenue to Wiltz Lane. The 1.25-mile stretch of Gen. Meyer includes Federal City and Delgado Community College. Those dates have been delayed.
The contract plans include “roadway construction that would improve access to people who walk, bike, and use transit on Gen. Meyer,” Welty said. “This might include the elimination of travel lanes for bike lanes and the installation and widening of sidewalks.
“Although concepts were developed in the pre-design phase of the project, they are subject to change as the design phase progresses,” he added.
Welty said that public meetings were held in February 2019 and May 2019 in connection with the Gen. Meyer project. “Once the design phase begins, more public meetings could be held,” he said.
The rationale for potentially reducing Gen. Meyer’s motor vehicle lanes to make room for protected bicycle lanes is unclear, considering that just blocks away is the paved bicycle and pedestrian path atop the Mississippi River levee.
Under the Cantrell administration’s Moving New Orleans – Bikes program, the city is creating a connected network of bike lanes to allow bicyclists safer passage to their destinations, including their jobs. In Algiers, the network would comprise about 10 miles of bike lanes, ideally tying the West Bank community with the Algiers Point/Canal Street ferry terminal.
According to a 2016 survey, only 3.3 percent of New Orleanians ride bicycles to their jobs.
The Mississippi River levee path connects the Algiers Point/Canal Street ferry terminal to the Algiers/Chalmette ferry terminal – a distance of more than four miles.
Gen. Meyer, meanwhile, is used to access four public schools and Federal City, which includes the Marine Corps Support Facility New Orleans, where more than 1,200 military personnel and civilians work daily. Many of the Marines use Gen. Meyer to commute between their jobs at the Algiers installation and their residences at the Naval Air Station-Joint Reserve Base in Belle Chasse.