Council members promise action after Lens finds most school lights not working

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Councilwoman Nadine Ramsey has vowed to work with the city’s Public Works Department in response to Lens reporting that found nearly half of the school-zone flashing lights in the city are malfunctioning.

As chairwoman of the Public Works, Sanitation and Environment Committee, Ramsey said she will raise the issue at the committee’s next meeting on March 3. The Department of Public Works is responsible for maintaining the lights.

“In the meantime, I am working with the DPW to remedy this situation as quickly as possible,” Ramsey said. “I also look forward to being involved with my colleagues’ efforts to address the safety of our school children as they make their way to and from school.”

Prior to The Lens’s inquiry, Ramsey said her office had received no complaints regarding malfunctioning school-zone lights. She said her office has begun to work with the department.

The Lens found 87 of the city’s 147 school zone lights near open schools weren’t working in an early January survey. That’s about 60 percent.

A second survey later in the month found about 45 percent of the lights weren’t working. A spokesman for Mayor Mitch Landrieu said the department had fixed between 20 and 30 lights in that time after an uptick in citizen complaints.

Councilwomen Stacy Head and LaToya Cantrell also responded promptly to a Lens email alerting them to our findings. Head asked Ramsey to address the item in the public works committee, and Cantrell said she will bring up the item at a school transportation safety working group on March 5.

But before those meetings occur, Mardi Gras will offer another test for the city’s system.

The blinking lights, which can be controlled remotely and programmed for up to 500 days, will have to accommodate a variety of school calendars over the next two weeks.

Drivers are required by city code to slow to 20 mph in posted school zones from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 2:45 p.m. to 4:45 p.m — but only on days when school is in session.

Students at Lycée Français de la Nouvelle-Orléans are out of school beginning Thursday through Feb. 18. Others, such as those at Firstline Schools’ five campuses, will be out of class Feb. 16 through Feb. 20.

And if the school-zone lights are flashing on the 2500 block of Jackson Avenue on Mardi Gras morning when Zulu rolls at 8 a.m., it’s OK. It’s not a school day and the floats probably won’t be topping 20 mph.

Have you seen malfunctioning school zone lights in your neighborhood? Share your photos with a time and location in the comments or on Twitter with #schoolzones

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