In Two


Interstate 10 through New Orleans, cutting a neighborhood in two.
Interstate 10 through New Orleans, cutting a neighborhood in two.

Once upon a time, Claiborne Avenue stretched all the way from Jefferson Parish, where it began as Jefferson Highway, passed through the heart of New Orleans and into St, Bernard Parish where it becomes E. Judge Perez Drive.

It still does. But, it’s different.

In those days, it passed through some pretty amazing neighborhoods, like Treme and Central City. As it passed through Treme it was pretty wonderful Oak tree covered wide boulevard. Old growth. Huge trees. It looked and felt European. It united a neighborhood that was vibrant and alive with art, music and people.

In the 1960s, some planning commission or another got the bright idea to route Interstate 10 through the City of New Orleans, rather than pass by on the lake side of the city where it runs all the way from Santa Monica, California to Jacksonville, Florida. They did create a direct highway called I-610, but the I-10 passes through the heart of the city. First, they wanted to route it through the river side of the French Quarter. Even though at the time the French Quarter was in a total state of disrepair, just about everybody raised a commotion. So, they put it in the next best place. An elevated portion of I-10 passed through Treme. The beautiful Oaks were torn out. Houses were torn out. Businesses were torn out. The jazz community had its heart torn out. The neighborhood was literally cut in two.

Ya’ heard what I’m saying?

Google the history of Treme. You’ll figure it out.

It became a cement jungle.

Some time after Hurricane Katrina did its thing, a people’s movement sprang up. Those who love the city want to tear out the overpass and take I-10 around the city. Something like this happened in San Francisco and Boston. Other cities too. Doing this would help the city continue to heal. This discussion is on going. It hasn’t been agreed to, but they haven’t said no, either.

This picture. This isn’t exactly Treme. This is where the 7th Ward sort of merges into Treme. This an off ramp from I-10 overpass heading downriver to Claiborne Avenue in the 7th Ward. Presumably, this would be torn out too if the plan goes forward since it would lead from nothing. But you get the idea. That wide grass expanse could be a neutral ground with a park and trees growing in it, instead of some always dark and foreboding place. The buildings on both sides of the avenue could be restored. The neighborhood could heal and grow.

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