PHOTO: New Orleans' Bourbon Street may soon become pedestrian only. (Photo courtesy Flickr/Lars Plougmann)
Bourbon Street—a festive, raucous, colorful, vibrant area of New Orleans—may soon seriously diminish the amount of traffic that passes through its corridor.
The Washington Times reports officials are currently mulling over ways to make Bourbon Street and the area around Vieux Carre safer. The move comes just a couple months after tragedy struck the area. As TravelPulse also reported at the time, a fatal shooting took place following a Saturday college football game.
Because of the game, there was an increase in police in the area. The current plan, however, seeks to do more than simply add peace officers to the popular tourist destination. In fact, officials are seriously considering shutting down Bourbon Street to vehicle traffic—at least during a portion of the day, possibly opening for delivery times.
The theory is that a decrease in car congestion would seriously deter terrorists from considering an attack in the area using a vehicle as a weapon that might drive straight through the immensely crowded area.
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A bustling thoroughfare such as Bourbon Street would do well as a pedestrian-only area, allowing visitors to hop from one locale to another with a bit more assurances of safety and freedom.
The situation is far more complicated as the report quotes Rick’s Cabaret’s Robert Watters who explains on blocking traffic even during portions of the day: “I think it’s something that needs to be investigated very carefully.”
Watters explains that the minute you take away cars is the second a cacophonous crowd begins to gather made up of protestors, performers and myriad other people craving to be heard.
Watters states, “And if you don’t really have a firm plan for how you are going to handle that, you could create some chaos.”
City Councilwoman Stacy Head echoes that sentiment and sees the difficulty that comes with completely transforming the area: “I’m not suggesting for one moment that we don’t have tarot card readers, that we don’t have performers, but I think it’s disrespectful to people that want to walk down the street (if other) people have co-opted public space for a commercial enterprise.”
In the end, officials are eager to make some change to infuse a popular place with more assurances of safety.
Councilwoman Nadine Ramsey explains: “When bad things happen on Bourbon Street, it garners worldwide attention. Everyone was in agreement that we needed to make some huge changes. I think this is certainly a very good start.”
Any changes continue to get tinkered before anything official is proposed, but the report suggests a proposal that would cost $30 million and would close parts of Bourbon Street during a wide swath of hours as well as set up, “ a $12.6 million command center to monitor a network of cameras; installing new lighting; and taking measures that would allow officers to respond in force to emergencies more quickly.”
There is no such thing as a perfect plan, but New Orleans officials are hard at work to find a way to make its prized tourist destination as safe as it can possibly be.