As the road work along St. Charles between Louisiana and Jackson has progressed these last few months, I've noticed they've also been raising the curb of the neutral ground and filling in fresh sod on the outside of the streetcar tracks. While that's been going on, separate crews have been up above Louisiana just kind of shoveling dirt around on the neutral ground. I've been curious about what that's been about but now I think it might have something to do with this.
Officials in the city of New Orleans have considered installing artificial turf along parts of the St. Charles Avenue neutral ground to protect it from the wear and tear of both large crowds at Mardi Gras and even the daily activity of runners.So they've been trying different kinds of grass. But they're also afraid everything they've tried is going to be too expensive because, no matter what they choose, a bunch of Chads will kill it with tents every Mardi Gras. Of course, we can't do anything about that. Better to scapegoat joggers and pedestrians, right?
Last year, the department had previously requested $2 million for a “St. Charles Avenue Neutral Ground Restoration” that would repair landscaping in the neutral ground using “grass pavers” between the streetcar tracks along the Mardi Gras parade route, and a form of artificial turf called “Celebration Bermuda” along the rest of the neutral ground. That request did not receive funding in the current year’s budget, and the department dropped it from its list of proposed projects for the next year, department director Ann Macdonald told city planners last week.
The department has also considered green infrastructure pavers in the neutral ground, but officials with the Regional Transit Authority oppose the idea, MacDonald noted, because they worry it would encourage even more people to use the streetcar tracks for running.RTA, in keeping with its character as of late, just can't abide the public using public space when they're trying to entertain tourists on it... which, let's face it, is what the St. Charles Streetcar is for. Maybe if someone figured out a way to charge a fee for running there, though. One of those run-keeper phone apps with a per-mile billing function that kicks in when you're on the tracks? I'm sure the mayor's Innovation Team can get on that.