Super Bowl traffic woes are worth hosting the big game, New Orleans residents say

January 31 2013 | Latest News
Traveling near the Superdome could be prove difficult.

January 29, 2013

By Helen Freund, | The Times-Picayune

With preparations and events surrounding Super Bowl 2013 dominating the New Orleans landscape, street closures, detours and parking difficulties have proved exasperating to many. Still, despite the delays and parking woes, residents say the big game is worth the trouble -- even as they note the worst is still to come.

The City of New Orleans issued an additional traffic advisory Tuesday (Jan. 29), adding to the many streets and exits already blocked off.

Beginning on Saturday (Feb. 2), the advisory said, from noon until 11 p.m., North Rampart Street will be closed from Esplanade Avenue to St. Peter Street for traffic heading toward Canal Street and the CBD.

Starting on Wednesday, in advance of the NFL Honors Show at the Mahalia Jackson Theater on Saturday, Louis Armstrong Park will be closed to the public beginning at 6 p.m. until Sunday (Feb. 3). Access will continue to be limited as the NFL loads out.

The second round of street closures went into effect Jan. 26, making it even harder to get anywhere near the Central Business District and Mercedes-Benz Superdome, causing many commuters heavy delays on their way into the city.

As the traffic in the Crescent City increases by the minute, exasperated New Orleans natives vented their frustrations.

"It’s been really bad," said delivery driver Raphael Padella, whose job for an event planning service requires him to make large deliveries several times a day around the CBD.

"It took me two hours on Sunday to get from the Orleans Avenue exit to the Superdome. I think it’s a lot worse than any of us expected," Padella said.

River-bound lanes of Poydras Street are closed from LaSalle to South Claiborne Avenue, and exit 234 B on I-10 East also is closed.

Those headed for the CBD are advised to take the Loyola exit from the Pontchartrain Expressway and use Loyola Avenue to get to other downtown streets, including the lake-bound lanes of Poydras, which will remain open.

As game day creeps closer, and the influx of out-of-town media and fans descending on the area only worsens traffic conditions, city officials have advised anyone traveling near the Superdome to avoid driving at all costs as parking is likely to be a difficult task, and to instead either walk, bike, or take public transportation.

The long-awaited Loyola Streetcar was finally launched Monday and, beginning Wednesday, enhanced streetcar services will be provided on all lines to help facilitate transportation in and around the downtown area. Residents also are encouraged to use additional RTA buses, taxicabs and bicycles as alternative modes of transportation.

While some people who live close to the CBD and Superdome will likely find it easy to trade in their cars for bicycles for a couple of days, some commuters coming in from a greater distance voiced their concern that the alternatives offered are still a poor fit and unlikely to make their commute any easier.

Ann Marie Philyaw, 34, a server at August restaurant in the CBD, said her commute from the Lower 9th Ward made it almost impossible for her to ride her bike to work, and that safety, above all things, is her main worry.

"During the day it’s not so bad, but I work nights and I don’t feel safe riding my bike home that late in the neighborhood," Philyaw said.

"We’ve been discussing it for some time now and we think our best bet is just going to be to take a cab home at the end of the night," she said.

"Regardless, it's a small price to pay for being able to host such a major sporting event in our town," she said.

Downtown traffic on Convention Center Boulevard beginning on Henderson Street until Julia Street could be subject to closure starting Wednesday until Feb. 4, although at the moment, no planned definite closures have been announced yet.

Likewise, certain street closures in the French Quarter will be put into effect if and when the pedestrian traffic volume dictates, a spokesman for the mayor’s office said.

Residents and business owners operating out of and living in the French Quarter have been advised that beginning Wednesday until Feb. 4, a portion of exterior streets will be closed to most traffic from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. and only residents, business owners and customers will be allowed to enter during those times.

In addition, a portion of interior streets will be closed to all traffic. Only emergency vehicles will be allowed to enter during those times.

Parking placards were given out last week to residents who either live or work in the French Quarter to allow them to access the parking garages beginning Wednesday. However, high demand for the placards caused them to quickly run out at the 8th District police station, a spokeswoman said, and residents who wish to enter will now just need to show a government issued ID. Businesses in the French Quarter who wish to enter must show a business card as proof.

Business owner Shari Jutras, who owns the Lost & Found clothing store, said she usually takes advantage of the street parking available on her quiet stretch of Chartres Street but was concerned about the parking and traffic difficulties arising.

"It hasn’t been too bad so far, but we all know the worst is still to come," said Jutras, who commutes in daily from her home in Algiers.

"They’ve been telling us to take our bikes, to take the bus – but I definitely don’t want to have to worry about riding my bike home late at night and I’m not a bus person," she said.

"We’ve been obsessing about what to do the last two weeks and now that it’s here we all know it’s just going to be a mess; we’re going to be glad when it’s over," she said.

"Still, it’s exciting," Jutras added. "It might be a pain for a little bit, but it’s all definitely worth it to have this happen in our city. It makes us feel special."

On Super Bowl Sunday, the area immediately surrounding the Superdome will be a complete no-drive zone and due to all of the street closures and dearth of parking options, fans headed to the game are advised to either walk or take public transportation.

People who need to drive will be able to take the Loyola exit from the Pontchartrain Expressway or the Vieux Carre or Esplanade exits from I-10 East. All lanes of Poydras Street will be closed from St. Charles Avenue to S. Galvez Street and portions of Loyola Avenue, Lasalle Street, Girod Street, Freret Street, South Robertson Street, Magnolia Street and Clara Street near the dome and arena will also be closed.

The city has advised that streets on the downtown side of Tulane Avenue and the river side of Rampart Street will be the best option for game day drivers.

Check back in with for more Super Bowl-related traffic updates.