The Judge Seeber Bridge (more commonly referred to as the Claiborne Bridge) has been closed since August 2nd so that the Department of Transportation and Development can give it a new layer of paint.
When open, the DOTD estimates that the Claiborne Bridge carries over 26,000 commuters every day. Needless-to-say its prolonged closure has had a huge impact on traffic, pushing all commuters through St. Claude and significantly affecting access to and from the Lower Ninth Ward.
The bridge was originally slated to open on August 24th (a “short” 22 day project), but as that date approached the DOTD announced that the bridge would remain closed throughout Labor Day Weekend. In the following week, the DOTD pushed the date back yet again, announcing that the bridge couldn’t be reopened until mid-october. Now officials are citing the “Karen Delay” for yet another set back, and are only “optimistic” that the bridge could open “in the mid/late October time frame.”
9th Ward residents have repeatedly expressed their frustration with the DOTD’s lack of consideration. One community member posted to the Judge Seeber Bridge Maintenance Project Facebook Page:
“As the Claiborne bridge continues to be up, it is very difficult for those of us who need to access St. Claude from the Ninth Ward do so…It is getting increasingly frustrating to make it across the canal daily as St. Claude remains so congested and Florida Street with its own low bridge, rapidly deteriorating roadbed, three sets of train tracks and now increasing traffic seems to be really starting to wear on motorists.”
The owners of Café Dauphine in the Lower Ninth Ward told WWLTV that the bridge closure has negatively impacted their business as well, delaying kitchen set up and holding up important deliveries to the Marigny and Bywater area.
Many local residents have also questioned the decision to close the bridge during Hurricane season. When the threat of Hurricane Karen was looming a week ago, Lower Ninth Ward residents were warned that on top of the Claiborne Bridge closure, “the St. Claude Bridge could be up during rush hour should the Coast Guard order an evacuation of the Industrial Canal.”
The prolonged bridge closure and disregard for the Lower Ninth Ward’s accessibility follows in a very long history of geographic isolation. Since the decision to construct the Industrial Canal in 1923, the Lower Ninth Ward has been both symbolically and physically cut off from the rest of New Orleans.
While residents are forced to suffer the negative impact of geographic isolation and the harmful effects of lead-based paint in the air, the private contractor (Texas Bridge Inc. of Humble Texas) is raking in a reported $4.8 million for the painting project.
Yet another example of the government prioritizing profits over people in the Lower Ninth Ward.