$6.5M drainage project has benefits, headaches

Dillard pedestrians might be able to put away their ubiquitous rubber boots used to navigate flooded sidewalks during rain once a $6.5 million drainage project is completed, but the campus will have to endure construction and parking woes for another 15 months.

To ease the pain of construction, the university has reduced the cost of parking decals by half this year, with faculty and staff decals now $100 and student decals $50. And rather than closing at 6 p.m., the Cook gate is scheduled to be open daily until 11 p.m. until further notice, according to Lt. Silas Phipps of Campus Police.

Construction near the Professional Schools Building is scheduled to be finished by the end of next month, said Adonis Woods, facilities director; the construction zone then will move to the opposite side of campus between Rosenwald and Lawless Chapel.

The project, funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, started three months ago and is set to be completed in December 2018, Woods said. Planning started in 2015.

Drainage pipes will be laid underground along the streets that will run from the campus entrances to the back of campus. A detention pond, to temporarily hold a set amount of water while it drains, will be built to capture the water from sidewalks and streets. Numerous small flags were posted around campus to mark underground utilities (gas, water and power lines).

Perhaps more important, the project is meant to protect the campus from high water and prevent flooding.

Woods said, “This hazard mitigation drainage project was designed to improve flooding based on FEMA definition of a 10-year, 24-hour storm event and lessen the possibility of a flood,” said Woods. The budget includes $4.2 million in construction, with the rest for design, inspection and testing.

“With this project, Dillard will have a first line of defense against severe flooding and not be totally dependent on the City Of New Orleans pumping system,” said Woods, although high water can still occur.

Woods asked everyone to allot extra time to make detours on campus. And he listed a few safety precautions for pedestrians: Don’t use your cellphones near construction sites, utilize sidewalks, stay within enclosed walking areas and follow pavement markings.