Travel & Tourism

French Quarter security plan could make Bourbon Street pedestrian-only

A police barricade prevents cars from driving any further on Bourbon Street in New Orleans. Mayor Mitch Landrieu is planning to improve security in the French Quarter, including closing part of Bourbon Street to vehicles and installing more lights.
A police barricade prevents cars from driving any further on Bourbon Street in New Orleans. Mayor Mitch Landrieu is planning to improve security in the French Quarter, including closing part of Bourbon Street to vehicles and installing more lights. Advocate staff photo

Mayor Mitch Landrieu is working on plans for new permanent security measures along Bourbon Street, an effort to prevent a repeat of two shooting incidents that each claimed one life and wounded nine on the city's most famous entertainment strip in the past few years. The idea also is to head off a potential terrorist attack.

Ideas floated by the mayor in discussions with other officials include more centralized surveillance and more restrictions on vehicular traffic.

A preliminary version of the proposal carries a $30 million price tag and calls for closing portions of Bourbon Street to vehicles during most hours; setting 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, according to excerpts of a draft proposal and interviews with people involved in the discussions.

The city may also step up enforcement of laws preventing performers and artists from blocking sidewalks or business entrances and prohibiting vendors from operating without permits.

The plan is still in draft form and has been through revisions already; more are likely in the coming weeks before it is formally announced. But the preliminary draft has been circulated to some City Council members and tourism leaders, French Quarter business owners and others.

Some involved in the discussions have said the hospitality industry could be asked to pony up some of the cash for the plan, though it's unclear whether hotels or tourism groups would be willing to put additional money toward public safety after having been tapped for previous efforts.

“Some of the public dollars that have gone to the hospitality industry should go toward this and some of the larger community safety and quality-of-life issues,” City Councilwoman Stacy Head said.

While much of the discussion has centered on the Vieux Carre, particularly after a deadly shootout on Bourbon Street in late November, the final version of the plan is expected to include elements aimed at improving security citywide.

Officials with the Mayor’s Office said Monday they would not comment on the specifics of the plan until it is ready for release.

“The city will roll out in the next couple weeks a very detailed and comprehensive citywide safety plan that will include a number of new safety measures in the French Quarter,” Communications Director Tyronne Walker said. “Some of those things the public saw during the New Year’s Eve holiday.”

NOPD spokesman Tyler Gamble said the department was “not prepared to get into any details at this time.”

The most visible parts of the plan mirror security measures put in place over the recent holiday weekend to tamp down fears of violence as tourists crammed into the French Quarter to ring in 2017 and celebrate the Sugar Bowl. Those would include shutting portions of Bourbon Street to vehicular traffic around the clock and installing more lights to increase visibility.

“When bad things happen on Bourbon Street, it garners worldwide attention,” said Councilwoman Nadine Ramsey, who represents the French Quarter. “Everyone was in agreement that we needed to make some huge changes. I think this is certainly a very good start.”

Read more about this exclusive Advocate story at theadvocate.com.

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