Public support spurs progress at complete streets workshop in New Orleans

Holiday Drive in New Orleans is an recent example of complete streets work in action.

In December 2011, the City Council of New Orleans, LA, unanimously passed the city’s first complete streets ordinance. The ordinance, which encourages designers and engineers to build streets that accommodate everyone, has already gained widespread support. Now, it’s up to New Orleans leaders to actually make these changes happen.

Last month, Smart Growth America and complete streets experts Michael Moule and Michael Ronkin held a workshop for City officials in New Orleans to help make their complete streets plans a reality. Joining the officials were representatives from 12 local, regional, and state agencies as well as non-profit partners who also participated in the event.

The workshop began with a welcome from City Councilmember Kristen Gisleson-Palmer, who introduced the New Orleans complete streets ordinance, and Mark Jernigan, PE (Ret. Lt. Col.), Director of the New Orleans Department of Public Works. Workshop participants then delved into some of the City’s current practices that already support complete streets, and identified other City practices that need to be re-examined. There were creative discussions and suggestions about how to improve street classifications in New Orleans to better account for community context, users, and expected complete streets outcomes. Several participants commented that they initially thought complete streets were just about bike lanes, but that the workshop helped them understand the many other elements and considerations that make a street complete.

Jennifer Ruley, PE, Pedestrian and Bicycle Engineer with the Louisiana Public Health Institute, and Louis Haywood, Complete Street Manager with the New Orleans Department of Public Works, spoke about two recent street projects in the city that successfully incorporated complete streets elements, including Holiday Drive, featured above. Their presentation included an in-depth discussion of the project development process, how it can be improved to achieve complete streets outcomes, and who should be involved. Many participants commented that the local focus was especially helpful in helping them to formulate strategies for implementation.

Following the workshop, New Orleans residents were invited to attend an informational session on complete streets facilitated by one of the workshop’s co-facilitators Michael Ronkin. Representatives from the New Orleans Department of Public Works and the New Orleans Regional Planning Commission also attended. Residents were encouraged participate in the discussion, and questions ranged from how to improve and increase public involvement and transparency in decision making, to ways to address the city’s seriously deteriorated network of sidewalks, to how to create more bicycle facilities, to how to improve the city’s tree canopy. All in all, there was great interest and enthusiasm about complete streets at the informational session, and City officials are more excited than ever to move forward with the project. As the work progresses farther toward implementing New Orleans’ complete streets policy, project leaders look forward to new progress and more public engagement in the months to come.

Many thanks to Jennifer E. Ruley, Pedestrian and Bicycle Engineer with the Louisiana Public Health Institute for her help writing this post.

Workshop Materials:

Workshop Outcomes:

Complete Streets Technical assistance