New Orleans, Louisiana

New Orleans, Louisiana

According to jibin123, New Orleans is a city in the United States and the largest city in the state of Louisiana. It is one of the most important port cities in the country and has 377,000 inhabitants. The agglomeration has 1,262,000 inhabitants (2021). The city’s population had shrunk dramatically after large areas of the city were destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, but has since recovered.


The Crescent City Connection across the Mississippi River at Downtown New Orleans.

The Huey P. Long Bridge over the Mississippi River in Jefferson Parish.


New Orleans is the English name of the original French name La Nouvelle-Orléans. The city was named after Orléans in France. The name is often pronounced by outsiders as New Or-leans (leans as in ‘jeans’) while the local pronunciation is nʲuːˈˈɔːrlənz / ‘Nu Orlenz’.


New Orleans is sandwiched between the Mississippi River to the south and Lake Pontchartrain to the north. The city is largely below sea level. To the east is Lake Borgne, which is actually a bay of the Gulf of Mexico. The Lake Pontchartrain also has an open connection to the sea. Surrounding New Orleans are large wetlands, the Mississippi River Delta extends south of the city far into the Gulf of Mexico. The Mississippi River divides the urban region into the East Bank and the West Bank, but these names are confusing because the Mississippi River near New Orleans flows mainly from west to east and the West Bank mainly flows south of the city and the East Bank west of New Orleans.

The urban area extends into a number of surrounding parishes. These are Jefferson Parish to the west and south, this includes the large suburb of Metairie and much of the West Bank south of New Orleans, to the southeast is St. Bernard Parish which includes mostly inaccessible swampland but is urbanized close to New Orleans, and Plaquemines Parish, which includes the actual Mississippi River Delta. Only the north of it belongs to the New Orleans metropolitan area.

New Orleans has a humid subtropical climate. Its location near the Gulf of Mexico makes it prone to hurricanes, which became particularly evident in 2005 when catastrophic flooding occurred following levee breaches caused by Hurricane Katrina. Because the Mississippi River Delta extends quite widely around New Orleans, the city is less sensitive to extreme wind speeds from hurricanes.


New Orleans’ economy has traditionally been linked to the Mississippi River. It is a port city, the Port of New Orleans is located in the city itself. In addition, in the region is the Port of South Louisiana, which consists of a series of large industrial complexes along the Mississippi River between New Orleans and Baton Rouge. Due to the large quantities of bulk products, this port has the largest tonnage of all ports in the United States. Mainly grain from the Midwest is exported here, as well as a lot of petrochemicals. A disadvantage of the port is that it takes a relatively long time to sail from the open sea to the many industrial complexes. New Orleans is less important as a container port.

Outside of the heavy industry associated with the port, New Orleans has relatively few other industrial sectors. The most famous is NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in the east of the city. The city has relatively few government services, it is not the capital of the state of Louisiana, which is Baton Rouge, and there are no major military installations, the only one of significance being the Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base New Orleans in the Belle Chasse suburb.

Perhaps the most visible in New Orleans is tourism. The French Quarter has unique architecture from the 18th and 19th centuries that is rarely found elsewhere in the country. The city is therefore one of the most important tourist destinations in the United States. One of the most famous events is the Mardi Gras carnival. The city is also known as an important center for jazz music. New Orleans cuisine is also famous.


New Orleans already had more than 10,000 inhabitants around 1800 and crossed the 100,000 mark in the late 1830s. At the time, it was the third largest city in the United States. The city experienced a steady growth in population until the 1950s, with a peak of 627,000 inhabitants in 1960. The city then fell into decline due to mass migration to the suburbs, especially in neighboring Jefferson. Parish. New Orleans’ housing stock was outdated and much of the wealthy population was moving. The result was a sharp increase in crime. The population shrank in each census, to 485,000 inhabitants in 2000. After the floods of 2005, the population shrank even more to 344,000 in 2010, but has since recovered.

New Orleans was originally a city that was about two-thirds white and one-third black. From the 1960s onward, whites began to move to the suburbs, increasing the proportion of blacks in the city to about two-thirds of the population. New Orleans has relatively few Hispanics and Asians compared to other areas on the Gulf of Mexico such as Texas or Florida.


A satellite image of the Lake Pontchartrain with the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway in the middle.

New Orleans was founded in 1718 by the French as La Nouvelle-Orléans, named after the city of Orléans in France. It was the capital of La Louisiane, the French part of North America. Much larger than the present state of Louisiana, La Louisiana originally encompassed the Great Plains from the Gulf of Mexico to the Great Lakes and between the Appalachian Mountains to the Rocky Mountains. However, the area was not fully under the control of the French due to a lack of money and manpower. In 1763 France had to cede large parts to the British and Spaniards. Napoleon sold the territory to the United States as the Louisiana Purchase, which at the time broadly encompassed the area between the Rocky Mountains and the Mississippi River. New Orleans thus became an American city. At that time, it had just over 10,000 inhabitants and as a port on the Mississippi River, it was growing rapidly.

The city was initially built on somewhat higher land on the east bank of the Mississippi River, in fact this is the north bank here because the Mississippi River flows from west to east here. Due to migration, the French character of the city gradually diminished, by the end of the 19th century French was barely spoken. At that time, the city was substantially larger than any other city in the southern United States. The first railroads to New Orleans were built in the late 1800s, not an easy task due to its location around water and swamps. Opened in 1884, the Norfolk Southern Lake Pontchartrain Bridge is still the longest railroad bridge in the United States.

In the early 20th century, New Orleans’ only access was by road to Baton Rouge, via what is now the Airline Highway (US 61). In the late 1920s, two road bridges were built across the eastern end of Lake Pontchartrain, as well as US 51 through the Manchac Swamp to Hammond, eliminating the detour through Baton Rouge for traffic. In 1926-1927, the most widespread flooding of the Mississippi River occurred, inundating 70,000 km² of land. The fragility of the Mississippi River land was exposed and acted upon by the Flood Control Act of 1928, after which the largest network of levees in the world was built. Dikes already existed around New Orleans, but these became part of a larger system of levees.

After World War II, the north of what is now New Orleans was drained with a system of levees to allow for suburbanization. From the 1950s, suburbanization followed on the East Bank in Jefferson Parish, where the large suburb of Metairie began to grow. Significant suburbanization of the West Bank also began, which is mainly south of New Orleans. From the mid-20th century, New Orleans was a less dominant city in the southern United States, now overtaken by Houston, Dallas, Atlanta and later Miami. The first population decline was recorded in the 1970s due to the flight of the middle class to the suburbs and other parts of the country. The New Orleans metropolitan area grew more slowly than many other cities in the southern United States. In the 80s and ‘ 90, the wetlands around New Orleans increasingly began to give way to open water due to erosion. This made New Orleans more vulnerable to storm surges, as became clear in 2005.

Floods after Hurricane Katrina in 2005

The Superdome in New Orleans with I-10 and US 90 Business.

I-10 in eastern New Orleans.

New Orleans lies for a considerable part below sea level, after the construction of dikes in the 1930s and 1940s, large areas of former wetland were reclaimed for housing. This applies to both the city of New Orleans and the adjacent Jefferson Parish. After the reclamation, the soil sank in many places, up to two meters. Because New Orleans is lower than the surrounding waters of Lake Pontchartrain and the Mississippi River, it is kept dry by three drainage channels with large pumping stations. These are called the New Orleans Outfall Canals and are the 17th Street Canal on the border with Jefferson Parish, the Orleans Avenue Canal and the London Avenue Canal. [3] These canals only have a function for water management and not for shipping.

Navigation is made possible through the Industrial Canal on the east side of New Orleans that connects the Mississippi River to Lake Pontchartrain, and the Mississippi River–Gulf Outlet Canal, a canal that provides a shorter route to the Gulf of Mexico created from New Orleans heading east. Surrounding these canals, as well as along the shores of Lake Pontchartrain and the Mississippi River, are levees, locally called a “levee.” These were designed by the United States Army Corps of Engineers.

On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina made landfall southeast of New Orleans. This caused a storm surge that flooded 80 percent of New Orleans and 100 percent of St. Bernard Parish east of New Orleans. The flooding resulted from breaches through the levees and walls along New Orleans drainage canals and along the Industrial Canal and Intracoastal Waterway. Thus, the flooding did not come directly from the Mississippi River or Lake Pontchartrain, but was the result of water backing up in the drainage canals and at the confluence of the Industrial Canal, the Intracoastal Waterway, and the Mississippi River–Gulf Outlet Canal. [6]

Not the entire agglomeration was flooded. The West Bank, which is south of the Mississippi River here, remained dry, as did the East Bank throughout most of Jefferson Parish. The French Quarter, the historic center of New Orleans, also remained dry. This also applied to the southern neighborhoods that are located on higher land close to the Mississippi River.

In the first weeks after the disaster, the levee breaches were hastily closed, often by driving sheet piles in the outlet of the channels to Lake Pontchartrain. New Orleans was gradually drained. St. Bernard Parish was mostly drained to the southeast in a more natural way. In the first week after the floods, traffic was almost impossible because all approach roads were flooded. However, the damage to the road infrastructure was relatively limited, with the greatest damage being to the I-10 Twin Span Bridge across the east of the Lake Pontchartrain. The bridge decks were largely pushed off their piers by the weir. This bridge was first repaired and then completely replaced. In the first weeks after the flooding, the elevated sections of I-10 and I-610 were the only dry parts of the city, but because not all of the highways run on overpasses, they could not be properly used for evacuation and supply of resources. This was only possible after the water had receded sufficiently.

The United States Army Corps of Engineers originally assumed that the levee breaches were the result of water flowing over the levees. Later research, however, showed that the dikes had already been breached at a much lower water level. This has been called the greatest civil engineering failure in the United States ever. After 2005, $14 billion worth of hydraulic engineering projects were carried out, making use of the Dutch knowledge gained after the construction of the Delta Works. The Mississippi River–Gulf Outlet Canal was closed to shipping and dammed. A large storm surge barrier called the Inner Harbor Navigation Canal Lake Borgne Surge Barrier has been constructed. [7] This is to prevent a backwater build-up from the southeast. An improved ring dike was also constructed around the most inhabited parts of St. Bernard Parish. Part of this were movable gates with which State Highway 46 can be closed where it crosses the ring dike.

Three movable storm surge barriers have also been constructed, modeled on the Maeslant barrier in Rotterdam, but of a smaller size. These are the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway West Closure Complex south of New Orleans, the Inner Harbor Navigation Canal Lake Borgne Surge Barrier east of New Orleans, and the Seabrook Floodgate in the Industrial Canal in northern New Orleans. [11] The New Orleans Outfall Canals are equipped with additional pumping stations at the dam at the mouth of Lake Pontchartrain, so that the water can no longer flow into the canals here.

Road network

The highway network of New Orleans.

New Orleans’ highway network is not very extensive. Due to its more southerly location, the city is also not located on through routes. I-10 forms the east-west connection, while I-12 north of the Lake Pontchartrain handles through east-west traffic along the coast. I-55 begins just west of the conurbation and heads north. US 90 is a major secondary highway, passing through the towns of Houma and Morgan City to Lafayette. The Business Route of US 90 forms a major highway across the West Bank and is also known as the West Bank Expressway. I-310 connects US 90 and I-10 west of the city with I-510 east of the city. Interstate 610 is a short highway connecting two sections of I-10 through the north of the city.

New Orleans itself has a road network that consists of a grid with squares, unlike other cities where the grid often consists of rectangles. The conurbation has quite a few relatively new suburbs. Due to the city’s isolated location, there are relatively few through-roads through New Orleans. The city is the gateway to the sparsely populated Mississippi River delta. The last city on State Route 23 through the delta is still about 75 miles southeast of the city.

List of freeways

Road name length first opening last opening AADT
Interstate 10 / Pontchartrain Expressway 42 km 1960 1972 209,000
Interstate 55 1979 1979 21,000
Interstate 310 18 km 1983 1993 54,000
Interstate 510 5 km 1992 1992 32,000
Interstate 610 7 km 197x 197x 105,000
US 90 Business / West Bank Expressway 23 km 1958 1984 163,000


The 38-kilometer Lake Pontchartrain Causeway.

Despite New Orleans’ strategic location on both the Mississippi River and Lake Pontchartrain, the city was fairly isolated and poorly accessible by road. In 1928 and 1929, two bridges opened over the narrowest part of the Lake Pontchartrain northeast of the city, the Maestri Bridge and the Chef Menteur Bridge. In 1935, the Huey P. Long Bridge, the first bridge across the Mississippi River in the state of Louisiana, opened. Today the US expires 90 about it. New Orleans’ first interstate was part of what is now I-10 and US 90, the Pontchartrain Expressway which became the Crescent City Connection and continued as the Westbank Expressway to Marrero. The first section was the connection of the Crescent City Connection at both ends, which opened in 1958. This may have been Louisiana’s first highway. In 1960, the remainder of the Pontchartrain Expressway along downtown, as well as the Westbank Expressway to Marrero, was completed.

The first section of I-10 outside of downtown New Orleans opened about 1960, when I-10’s Industrial Canal Bridge opened. On August 30, 1956, the first bridge of the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway opened to traffic, and a second on May 10, 1969, effectively making it a highway. In 1965, the I-10 Twin Span Bridge opened northeast of the city, over which I-10 runs. The highway network was expanded in the 1980s and 1990s with the addition of I-310 west and I-510 east of New Orleans. Both of these highways were originally planned as I-410, New Orleans’ southern beltway that was never built.


Because New Orleans has lost quite a lot of its population after Hurricane Katrina, the road network is not very busy. Most problems occur on I-10, as this is the only high-speed east-west connection in the metro area. When evacuating the city, the I-10, I-55 and I-59 can be used with a counterflow configuration, which means that all available lanes are used in one direction.

New Orleans, Louisiana