Columns » Blake Pontchartrain: New Orleans Trivia

Blake Pontchartrain: Earhart Expressway

Why are there no exits going into Mid-City or ramps toward Elmwood?

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Hey Blake,

I've lived in New Orleans for six years and am still mystified by the Earhart Expressway. Why are there no exits going into Mid-City or on ramps going toward Elmwood? Did the city/state run out of money?

Barbara

Dear Barbara,

The history of Earhart Expressway traces a long and winding path, much like the roadway itself. Like Earhart Boulevard which it joins, the expressway is named for Fred Earhart, a former state lawmaker, utilities commissioner and New Orleans City Council member who died in 1948.

  Earhart Expressway first was proposed in the late 1950s, after regional leaders recognized the growth of the suburbs and the need for more routes in and out of Jefferson Parish. Original plans called for a six-lane expressway to stretch from the Orleans Parish line to Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport in Kenner. That idea was dropped when an on-ramp linked the Airport Access Road to Interstate 10.

  After years of delays, construction of Earhart Expressway began in 1971. Because state and federal money was available only in phases, the work was done over time. Earhart's first phase, dedicated in 1977, connected Dickory Avenue to Clearview Parkway. In 1981, the second stretch connected Monroe Street to the Orleans-Jefferson Parish line. By 1986, the fifth and final stretch between Clearview and Cleary avenues marked the end of construction on the 4.8-mile, $52.4 million expressway.

  Later studies recommended extending the project to the St. Charles Parish line, but funding ($138 million by some estimates) always was the roadblock. One state lawmaker even proposed a 25-cent toll to drive on the roadway, but that idea went nowhere. A 2007 state proposal suggested adding an interchange at Causeway Boulevard, with an estimated $48 million price tag. It remains a project only on paper for now.

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