Ordinance to pay for pothole damages

Photo+by+Brennan+Probst

This is one of many potholes marring New Orleans' streets.

Tourists worldwide know New Orleans for the Mardi Gras parades that wind through its streets. But locals know the damage that lies beneath all those parading feet: potholes. From Lakeview to the Lower 9th ward, potholes exist throughout the city. Legally, any drivers whose cars are  damaged by potholes can sue the government.  A new ordinance proposed by Council President Jason Williams would help ensure these drivers get paid.

According to Williams, the city would use the money from the cases it wins – about $2 million dollars every year – to pay for the cases it loses. However, the city owes nearly $40 million to drivers from cases dating as far back as 1996. To even begin to pay these debts, funds would have to be allocated from other sources.

However, should the city prioritize paying off that backlog of unpaid judgments? Some UNO students believed the potholes should be fixed first, so the city can stop wasting money on settling the resulting damages.

“You gotta think about it,” Senior Thanh Nguyen said, “Would it be easier [and more effective] to actually fill in those potholes … or have people fix the cars which got damaged by the potholes? … In my opinion, just fill out the potholes and then you wouldn’t have to put out so much, because what if it’s a foreign car? Those are more expensive to fix.”

“There are some people who probably do have a good case and who should be paid,“ Freshman Raul Monroy said,”But as with most things, that is probably a small percentage. The money itself could be used to repair instead of just paying lawsuits … Sure, pay the most critical ones, but use that money on other things like probably repairing the source of the problem.”

Other students think that the money should be directed toward other causes, such as education.

“I think the money is important for education, because education in Louisiana is really bad,” Senior Sapna Naran said. “At the same time, though, potholes are a really big problem here too … Some of the parts of the city are horrible. Maybe half of the money can go to education and half can go to the potholes, because the city does need to get fixed.”

Nguyen said, “I agree we can put more money toward education, but we should already [have] a funding budget for education in the first place.”

It’s a contentious issue for many in a city constantly battling flooding, which aggravates the pothole problem. According to a 2016 study published by the consulting company Stantec, at least 65 percent of the city’s streets were ranked with a “D” or an “F” on their grading scale.

New Orleans would spend around $3.6 billion to eliminate potholes. It’s still unclear what the future holds for New Orleans’ streets, but if the ordinance passes, it will take effect in 2018. The effects would be far-reaching. Car repairs can cost the average New Orleans driver $672, according to transport research group TRIP.

Regardless of the outcome, UNO students will remain vigilant when driving.

“[Even] if they repair [the street], it’s probably going to be damaged again,”

Junior Abdoul Aziz Seck said. “People who live here should be aware of the state of the roads.”

Illustration by Kellie Vedros