Feds fund improvements

Kenner residents should see substantial upgrades to some of the city’s major roadways thanks to roughly $26 million in street improvements paid for with federal dollars.

The improvements are slated to begin in late March or early April and are part of the state’s Paths to Progress program, which was announced last spring.

The state dedicated $90 million in transportation improvement funds to New Orleans and Jefferson Parish, and the bulk of Jefferson Parish’s money will be spent in Kenner.

The funding comes from dollars dedicated to the metropolitan area through the Federal Highway Administration.

Kenner public works director Jose Gonzalez said that program includes improvements to Loyola Drive, 31st Street, West Esplanade Avenue, Sal Lentini Parkway, Chateau Boulevard, Joe Yenni Boulevard, Vintage Drive, Williams Boulevard, West Metairie Avenue and Roosevelt Boulevard.

The two contractors for the work are Boh Bros Construction Company and Barrierre Construction Company.

The state approved repairs to a total of 23 streets in Jefferson Parish, but 21 of those streets are in Kenner. Repairs will include resurfacing, pavement patching, repairing curbs, striping and installing ramps.

Many of the repairs in New Orleans were targeted for the French Quarter and slated to be finished prior to the Super Bowl. However, Kenner’s work could continue into the first quarter of 2014 as projects get started throughout the year.

Gonzales said the city was able to secure the funding by taking careful inventory of its streets in the wake of hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The Paths to Progress dollars can only be applied to streets that were already part of the federal network and were damaged during the hurricanes.

Previously, the program went by the name of the Submerged Roads Program, and it pumped roughly $118 million into the metropolitan area.

Gonzalez said Kenner did not receive any funding under that allocation.

“Kenner is just getting its fair share,” Gonzalez said.

Kenner Mayor Mike Yenni said the city is only getting the money because of Gonzalez’s efforts.

All of the streets that will be improved are major arteries, and Yenni said the city wouldn’t have been able to make these improvements without what is basically a federal grant.

“The likelihood of this work getting done without that money is none,” Yenni said.

Kenner Councilwoman Michele Branigan noted that the construction work likely will cause some headaches for Kenner motorists, but the work is a sure sign of the city’s progress.

“I don’t know if we’re having any time throughout the year of 2013 that we won’t have some work going on,” Branigan said. “That’s great news that we continue improvements around the city of Kenner.”

Besides improving roads, the influx of money will help the city’s economy by generating construction jobs and the spending associated with them, officials said. Several politicians have praised the economic boost provided by the Paths to Progress program as much as they have praised the roadway improvements.