Restoring Claiborne Avenue: Alternatives for the Future of Claiborne Avenue

Transportation analysis says removal of Claiborne Expressway is viable and would recover more than 50 acres of freeway-covered parking lots and empty lots near interchanges for public neutral ground, bike paths, transit corridors, and sites for redevelopment

A report to the Claiborne Corridor Improvement Coalition and the Congress for the New Urbanism, Prepared by Smart Mobility Inc. and Waggonner & Ball Architects

This report, commissioned for the Claiborne Corridor Improvement Coalition by the Congress for the New Urbanism, explores future alternatives for the elevated Interstate‐10 (I‐10) Claiborne Expressway corridor. Using traffic data and circulation patterns, the report concludes that removal of the freeway would bring important benefits for surrounding neighborhoods and New Orleans as a whole.

It finds that the replacement of major segments of the Claiborne I-10 freeway with a restored urban boulevard would result in a well-functioning transportation system that meets regional needs while promoting the economic and social rebirth of the once-vibrant Claiborne Avenue and its surrounding communities.

The report’s chief findings include:

  • A small fraction of drivers — less than 20 percent — use the Claiborne Expressway as a through route between the east and west portions of the region and beyond. With most through traffic using I-610, the Claiborne I-10’s “use does not match the intended function of an interstate highway,” concludes the report.
  • The average trip length on the Claiborne Expressway is a mere 1.6 miles, according to the DOT’s regional model, suggesting many drivers use it as a short-cut between nearby neighborhoods.
  • For the minority of users traveling the full length of the elevated expressway over Claiborne, trips would lengthen by two to three minutes (off-peak and peak) under an alternative that would convert the freeway segment between Canal and St. Bernard to a boulevard, according to a review of the region’s travel-demand base model. Under an alternative involving removal of the freeway from Canal to Elysian Fields, travel times would lengthen by 3 to 6 minutes.
  • For the larger number of users connecting to destinations such as Louis Armstrong Park, the French Quarter and downtown, connectivity would improve with a boulevard and improved street connections.
  • Although a highly connected surface street network is a hallmark of the New Orleans system, street closures in the area over the years have actually reduced street connectivity. Removal of the Claiborne Expressway could be a catalyst to reconnect streets such as Galvez across the Pontchartrain Expressway, relieving Claiborne Avenue of its role as a primary connector between uptown and downtown.
  • Traffic on both the Claiborne Expressway and nearby streets are substantially below pre-hurricane levels, “indicating that the capacity is available to absorb redistributed traffic” resulting from the freeway’s removal, say the study’s authors.
  • The Claiborne Expressway is not a hurricane evacuation route designated for contra-flow traffic. It serves a role as a collector during times of evacuation but this function could be served better by a surface boulevard.

Demolition of the aging elevated expressway would remove an eyesore that has dominated and damaged the Tremé/Lafitte landscape for almost 50 years and held back serious attempts to spur economic development. The destruction of the oak-lined avenue and construction of the elevated expressway in the 1960s, was intimately tied to the overall decline of Claiborne’s surrounding neighborhoods and occurred against the wishes of the area’s largely disenfranchised African-American residents. Removing the elevated expressway would free up more than 50 acres for use as public neutral ground, bike paths, transit corridors, as well as freeing significant acres outside the boulevard itself for redevelopment. In addition, a simplified interchange between the restored Claiborne boulevard and the Pontchartrain Expressway could free up valuable land near the Superdome for redevelopment.

Download the full Restoring Claiborne Avenue report by Smart Mobility Inc. and Waggonner & Ball Architects (12 MB PDF).

Possible Future for the Claiborne Corridor

View of the Claiborne Corridor Today

Views of Claiborne Avenue 1966 (left) and 1968 (right)