In the 1950s, before the construction of Interstate-10, Treme was the wealthiest and first free African American community in New Orleans, Louisiana. At the heart of this community was Claiborne Blvd; a thriving commercial corridor lined with oak trees where the pillars of I-10 now stand. Paintings of trees, iconic African Americans, and cultural activities are reminiscent of the past landscape and culture. Unfortunately, this neighborhood has since crumbled due to blight caused by the noise, eyesores, pollution, lack of vegetation, and dangers caused by I-10. Despite its appearance, this space is still used in a variety of ways ranging from a parking lot, Mardi Gras events, hang out space, and a shelter for prostitutes and the homeless.
It was thought an interstate in the city center of New Orleans would promote economic growth. However, research by landscape architects and urban planners has shown that over the years a functioning street grid works better than interstates. Since Katrina, it has been in the new Master Plan and the goal of community activists, along with partners such as CNU and Liveable Claiborne Communities, to tear down the Interstate over Claiborne and restore the area.
About half of the 57,000 to 69,000 cars on Claiborne would be redirected to unused streets, increasing drive time about three to six minutes during peak hours. Claiborne's renovation plan includes a 2.2 mile stretch which widens lanes, enlarges green space, replants oaks, creates bike lanes, and includes the possibly for a light rail system to remediate traffic issues. Connecting housing to jobs, schools, and healthcare promotes liveable communities through economic development in Treme and 7th Wards.
But many locals are concerned this will negatively affect traffic time, as well as increase shipping costs for trucks. Travelling distances will increase by about 4.8 miles, costing about $33 extra for each trip.
Increasing the cost of freight is a small price to help low income areas, restore our city, and preserve our culture. Are we going to let an outdated and unnecessary physical barrier continue to divide our communities? Or are there other unforeseen issues and benefits other global cities have experienced that could guide Nola in the right direction?
Credits: Images by Allyson McAbee. Data linked to sources.