000_0348_1.JPGAlthough the floodwaters generally came no further than Freret Street, all the streets in New Orleans, even 15 months after Hurricane Katrina, are more beaten and broken than ever. The path from downtown to Uptown is now a veritable obstacle course of potholes, lane closures, and broken stoplights. As a public service, we now share the following tips for negotiating the streets of post-Katrina New Orleans.

When leaving downtown on S. Rampart Street, look for the monster pothole surrounded by orange barriers in the right lane. That mess has been there for months now, and will probably be there for the indefinite future. You can either pull off to the shoulder and tread around to the right or wave into traffic on the left. Either way, it’s always an adventure. Maybe, just maybe, the city will fix the pothole and remove the barriers, since thousands of motorists are forced to dodge them every day.  More likely, someone may just lose it one day and plow right through them. Ten points to anyone who tries it. Have another favorite pothole? Feel free to share.

After the potholes, one can look forward to a series of unique traffic light systems. Our favorite is what we call the double light (pictured above). A double light does not alternate between red, yellow, and green. Rather, it is red and green at the same time. This type of light allows the motorist great flexibility, especially if he happens to drive a large SUV with good airbags.

Other lights may flash red or flash yellow. In other places around the country, a flashing red light functions the same as a stop sign. A flashing yellow light functions as a yield sign:

FLASHING LIGHTS: These lights may be either red or yellow.

Flashing Lights FLASHING RED: Stop, yield the right-of-way to traffic within the intersection or crosswalk and proceed when safe. This sign is used at dangerous intersections or when a stop sign alone is hard to see. They are also used at railroad crossings to warn of approaching trains. Stop. Never try to beat a train to a crossing.FLASHING YELLOW: Proceed with caution. This sign is used where caution is required.

In New Orleans, however, the geniuses in charge have put stop signs up in some of those intersection with flashing yellow lights, more or less rendering the intersections four-way stops.  So much for the whole “proceed on with caution” thing.

The good news is that motorists need not worry about those dangerous street cars on St. Charles Avenue. Sure, they were charming, but they were constantly plowing into unsuspecting motorists making left turns into the neutral ground, creating lawsuits and making lawyers rich. The Regional Transit Authority reports that although the Central Business loop of the St. Charles streetcar may be functional by the end of the year, Uptown will be street-car free until late 2007. Although it takes less than a year to repair and renovate the entire Superdome, it apparently takes over two years to fix the overhead lines on a four-mile streetcar track.

Update:  Since we began working on this story, progress has been made on St. Charles Avenue.  The street lights between Valence Street and Robert Street have finally been fixed, and some of the flashing yellow light/stop sign combinations have been replaced with flashing red lights.  Still dodging that pothole on S. Rampart Street though . . . .