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The Anthill Madness of Veterans at Xmas December 21, 2011

Posted by The Typist in New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street, Xmas.
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Veterans Boulevard is chaos this near to Xmas, crowded with cars moving like doodle bugs, a slow and determined crawl. A woman tries to exit a parking lot and insists on reaching the far turn lane, clenched fists furiously pounding the horn, face set like a lineman in the moments before contact. Why they position these u-turn lanes at intersections, precisely the point where a wall of cars will block the manic driver attempting to force her way across three lanes of stalled cards, is a mystery known only to the traffic engineers. Perhaps it is because the refuse to culvert and cover the canal west of Causeway, conserving their dollars to erect metal statues to give the appearance of culture. Metairie at the holidays is not culture. It is the primal panic of a crowd confronted with Godzilla. Walled in on all side by big box stores on all sides, they cannot escape.

This is the creeping edge of America pushing closer to New Orleans, every one defending their position on the road or the tax bracket, demanding everything the television promises them regardless of the danger. There is none of the patience of Orleanians creeping up Carrollton Avenue or waiting at Louisiana where St. Charles narrows to one lane. I prefer to sit and wait my turn where the clattering streetcars pass, marveling at the craftsmanship of a vehicle where every replacement part is built by hand, There is time to think, impossible when locked in a life-or-death struggle to make the Causeway entrance ramp.

So many people clamor for the convenience of big box stores in the city. When they wanted to build a Target or some other store where Bayou St. John ends at Jefferson Davis Parkway, those of us closest recoiled at the thought of all that traffic channeled down Moss Street; Bienville Street become West Esplanade Avenue, impossible to cross from the Orleans side to the Canal side as all of Lakeview speeds past on their way to shop. It would spare me occasional trips to Metairie but instead bring Metairie to my doorstep, the choice a snarl of traffic that would make Veterans like a country lane or the conversion of quiet, neighborhood streets into frantic avenues of commerce.

I foolishly ordered a turkey from Whole Foods in Metairie just across from Lakeside Mall, and will find myself on Veterans on December 23rd; worse a Friday, the day when it appears no one is Jefferson Parish goes to work but instead out to shop. I think there is no better definition of insanity, but I have made my bed and must sleep in it. Arabella wouldn’t be much better with last minute holiday dinner shoppers trying to wedge themselves into the tiny parking area.

Once committed to the Metairie option my only avenue of escape is patience as I crawl back down Veterans, the construction on Causeway Boulevard allowing perhaps one car every two or three minutes to make it to the interchange. That way madness lies. I will have to console myself that once I make it past Causeway, escape onto the 610 at West End Boulevard and make my exit at St. Bernard, I can admire the way everyone gracefully navigates the complex intersection of St. Bernard, Gentilly, Paris and DeSaix.

Highway To Hell: No Exit September 3, 2008

Posted by The Typist in New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
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Ok, I-59 during the evacuation was not precisely the Highway of Death. Still, many Louisianians were trapped in a miles-long parking lot with no way to exit: not exactly a healthy environment. If no elderly or infirm person died it was mostly a matter of luck. (Note: I went up I-55, the Highway of Shoot Me Now, Its Another Slowdown, but not quite the Highway of Death). So don’t take my word for it: read Loki’s account.

That is Odd, that exits were closed in the most congested areas, and people were not allowed to get off.

Planning my return to Toulouse Street this afternoon, I noticed this:

Lincoln, Pike County – I-55 S at the city of McComb
Last Updated on 9/3/2008 3:00:02 PM
Lanes Affected: Southbound All Lanes
Approximate Duration: 4 hours
Cause: Heavy Congestion
Additional Info: Exits in McComb will be closed intermittently due to high volumes of traffic.

So, when a Federal highway in Mississippi gets really congested the Mississippi State authorities respond by closing the exits so you can’t get off and find an alternate route. I think someone in Mississippi has some explaining to do. Are they afraid that “those people” might get off into back roads where they can’t be controlled? (This is not an exclusive problem to Mississippi. A spokesman for St. Tammany Parish all but insisted on WWL that people who arrived before the blockades were lifted without enough money or gas to go back be moved to the south shore to wait)

Also worth some investigation is Mississippi’s decision to block Louisiana residents access to I-10 East–an interstate, Federal highway–so that the people of the Gulf Coast might evacuate in the direction of the storm unimpeded. Forget Mississippi’s excuse about the Mobile Tunnel. Anyone who’s been to Destin knows that a huge mess on an average Saturday afternoon but there is an alternate route north for people approaching from the west. All they had to do is send the evac traffic up I-65.

What is happening is this: Haley Barbour and the Mississippi authorities are willing to commandeer interstate Federal highways for their own benefit. If those are the “rules” we’re going to play under, I think at the next tropical storm watch the Louisiana National Guard needs to wire the Pearl River bridges and be ready to blow them to make sure we get out first this time.*

*Note for Homeland Security Types: since the DHS probably doesn’t have the sort of high standards of education once required of the FBI, I should probably explain this particular paragraph is a figure of speech known as hyperbole, which I suspect is not on the extrance exam for DHS, and may not be taught in Mississippi public schools.** Hyperbole is an intentional exageration, and in no way indicates that I would approve of this action on undertake it myself. I would, however, unhesitantly take advantage of it were it to occur.

** Yes, that was an insult.