What- Streets of Nola are a significant problem for Its Residents
By: Ian Macfadyen
Editors Note: ViaNolaVie partners with students of UNO professor László Zsolt Fülöp, pairing them with artists, non-profits, environmental groups, and cultural entities to facilitate a live curriculum that results in a short documentary.
Ian Macfadyen, a film student at the University of New Orleans, provides us with an insight into the terrible streets of New Orleans. He takes us throughout the city to show us different potholes and construction zones where potholes are present and where the city has vacated the improvements of the street. A documentary that not only informs us but sends out a message to the city of New Orleans to fix the streets.
Ian- Every morning as I leave my house. I ride a roller coaster down my street. However, I’m not screaming with excitement but yelling at New Orleans and its damn roads.
Ian- I’ve lived in Uptown, New Orleans, for about a year. My road has looked like this since I moved in.
Ian- All right. I’m going to attempt driving down my road at the speed limit, which is a dangerous task. It’s about three times faster than you should go on this road, so hopefully, I don’t pop a tire. The biggest problem I have with the street is that it’s not an isolated incident. If you live in New Orleans or if you’ve ever been here, you know about the infamous pothole problem. My road was actually worked on at some point. There are old abandoned construction cones to prove it.
Ian-Road Work Nola’s interactive map lists my road as currently under construction despite it being untouched for a year. They say that construction was to start in November 2020. And finish spring 2022, which, based on this information, my road should be almost completely new at this point. Look, I understand that covid stopped construction, and it slowed down a lot of things, and I get that, but I feel like the lack of communication from roadwork Nola and Public Works is just disheartening.
Knowing very little about the bureaucracy of New Orleans infrastructure, I first turned to the internet, more specifically to Instagram. There’s a locally famous Instagram account that documents potholes in New Orleans called lookatthisfuckinstreet. I’ve been following them for quite some time, so I figured I’d reach out and see what they had to say about the streets. All right, we’re gonna call lookatthisfuckinstreet. The creator was more than happy to have a conversation with me, although he requested he must stay anonymous.
Ian-Hello. Hi, this is Ian for the interview
Anonymous- Hey Ian, how’s it going?
Ian- It’s going pretty good; I guess we’ll start off with the basic question. Why did you start the page, and what made you want to do it?
Anonymous- Well, the term lookatthisfuckinstreet literally started out as exasperation trying to navigate the city when there are all these fucked up roads. I thought that it would be funny for my friends if I just started posting potholes. Still, pretty quickly, I thought it had some legs because I was getting hundreds of followers pretty promptly, including the City of New Orleans, and so I really wanted, as my bio says, to document the streets as they are. I try to be pretty much agnostic as far as it comes to like political stuff. At the start of 2020 and into 2021 is when all these road projects started. When I first started, it was mainly potholes, but now we’re dealing with these massive road projects that no one is finishing.
Ian-It just feels like every other Block in uptown is under construction. I’m no project manager, but maybe I can do these one at a time so not every street is closed off. Just a thought. This is what I mean: why are three roads right next to each other, all dug out, but none are being worked on a Thursday morning?
Ian- I think the fact that there are so many empty construction sites proves my point. Either we don’t have enough workers, or we started too many projects at once.
Anonymous- I’ll preface this by saying that I am in no way a street engineer, and I know very little about it. I’m just a guy who runs an Instagram account, but my understanding is that there were all of these federal dollars, at least in part, from Katrina. Probably other things too that we’re going to time out if we didn’t start these roadwork projects that have been basically put off for various reasons. My understanding is that those federal dollars were going, so we were going to lose access to them, and the way that they can get allocated is if you start the project, but you do not have to finish the project to get the money. There’s a rush to start all these projects and get those federal dollars that we desperately need.
As with any projects, if you rush, you know there doesn’t seem to be much planning on behalf of the contractors on how it’s going to get done. We would love to have New Roads. We would love to have a functional water system that doesn’t leak fresh water and cause sinkholes. We would love all that, right? But what we don’t want to do is have them open up a pit in front of our houses with no plan to finish it. It’s going to take longer than I think people really want it to. I’m hopeful that the city will, with pressure from citizens, be more transparent. I think transparency is really what people want and what is lacking on behalf of all agencies.
Ian- The mayor’s office has still not gotten back to me about my media requests to interview someone about the streets.
I’m sorry, my communications is not available. Record your message at the tone when you are finished hang up or press pound for more options.
[Hangs Up Phone]
Ian- I’ve left them multiple messages, so I don’t really want to fill up their voice machine. This is another example of the city’s failure to communicate to their citizens. As I drive down my street back to my house, I can’t help but think what lookatmyfuckinstreet told me.
Anonymous- Are the streets of New Orleans going to get better? I would say in the long term, no, we’re dealing with subsidence. We’re a very old city, and we’ve got problems that are geographical, economical, geological, and insurmountable in many ways. At least a lot of people think that in terms of when it comes to building hard infrastructure on top of what was a swamp. We know about that; I don’t think that should be an excuse for not being transparent or not fixing things promptly because that can be done.