Since hitting a record low of 210,768 in 2006, the Crescent City is two-thirds of the way back to its pre-Hurricane Katrina population of 484,674. Last year, in fact, it was the nation's fastest-growing city.
Infrastructure managers are facilitating this regrowth by leveraging multiple funding programs to make assets better than ever.
“We've sought to maximize the feasibility of projects by utilizing a variety of funding sources to accelerate projects,” says Robert Mendoza, a former city traffic engineer who'd gone on to a lucrative career in road-building (see “No Time for Café au Lait,” page 32 of the September 2007 issue of PUBLIC WORKS) before returning to public works as director right after the 2005 hurricane. “Our goal is not only to restore, but to reinforce a solid framework so the city benefits from first-rate infrastructure.”
Since then, Mendoza has supplemented or combined $70 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) Public Assistance Program with other federal, state, and local programs to restore the assets under his team's care: anything related to vehicular, pedestrian, and rail movement within the public right of way.
For example, he leveraged FEMA relief to finance $10 million in street repair, sign replacement, and related projects while supplementing recovery efforts through a $200 million revolving loan fund that Louisiana created in 2007 solely to restore New Orleans' infrastructure.
When the city was declared a federal disaster area in September 2005, the door to the federal Highway Trust Fund's Emergency Relief (ER) Program opened.
In 2007, the Louisiana Department of Transportation Development (DOTD) and Congress created the South Louisiana Submerged Roads Program (SRP) to repair and resurface hurricane-damaged federal-aid roadways.
Of the $100 million in projects scheduled for completion in August 2010, New Orleans has received $130 million for design, inspection, and engineering to jump-start already scheduled projects. Though still in the early planning stages, the city may receive another $100 million through this program.
Public works is using Community Development Block Grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, apportioned under a standard formula and based on a community's socioeconomic factors, to fund streetscaping.
Then there's the stimulus package.