Before I left for church this evening, I read the interesting commentary going on at Stones Cry Out (which by the way is a very cool name for a blog) about Dennis Hastert's (edit: linking to the Wikipedia article on Hastert since his name isn't the most household of names) remarks about not rebuilding New Orleans. I entered the fray by saying (including the missed space after my parenthetical reference):

While Hastert's remark may have been ill-timed, and Jon's remarks about the largest port in the United States is right on target, one must wonder about the wisdom of having nearly half a million people (data for Orleans Parish, LA from Census.GOV using the Population Finder on the right side of the home page)live in an area that requires levees around 360 degrees to keep it from flooding.

Jon Gallagher is the Jon I respond to in that comment, and he stated that:

There is absolutely no question that NO must be rebuilt. The commercial port of NO is the largest in the US. It is purpose built for the efficient transfer of high weight and low value (per unit of weight) goods. E.g. grain. Without a port at the mouth of the Mississippi the agricultural Midwest is no longer a viable economic entity. Nor would there be the capacity for importing raw bulk goods, so what little manufacturing still exists in the Midwest is gone as well.

Jon also reminded us that 25% of the energy (in the form of petroleum) used in the United States passed through that port, and that we fought battles in the War of 1812 and the Civil War for this very port. The second part of my initial comment suggested a solution to this thorny problem (short-term economic benefit vs. public safety/long-term economic benefit):

I wonder if there is a way to move the residential sections to the north side of Ponchatrain. Traffic would be a bear, but with an effective mass transit system between the port and the proposed residential section, we might avoid the loss of life we've seen with Katrina.

Jon replied that this was economically unfeasible because the poorest segments of society need to live close to their jobs (for a number of reasons which Jon details in his comment). I was about to reply to this comment when I figured it would be better to move this discussion to this forum rather than fill up Stones Cry Out's comments for the post.

John, your arguments make good sense (makes me wonder if his education is in geography and/or urban planning). If we're to rebuild New Orleans on the same site, then we MUST invest in the infrastructure to be able to evacuate the city in a very short amount of time. However, as I Technorati'ed for the original post, I ran across this post discussing the cost-benefit of rebuilding New Orleans. The author makes a good point about a terrorist attack taking out the levees and giving residents even less time to evacuate. There are no easy answers to this question. Unfortunately, we can't step back and study this to death either. The rebuilding of the levees is currently in progress, and getting the port and the peoples' lives back in order as soon as possible is crucial. As I look at the maps (I started with a Google map, but they don't show elevation, but that would be a nice feature), perhaps the best option is to re-build New Orleans much closer to Baton Rouge. From the map, it appears that Baton Rouge was already expanding towards New Orleans, and so a combined city might make the most sense. While it's a bit farther from the Gulf of Mexico, it is still on the Mississippi River (which my north side of Ponchatrain option was not) thus providing an outlet for the Midwestern agricultural area. Access to northbound I-55 remains convenient, and I-59 is still relatively close. I must admit however, that I am not sure to do with the southern routing of I-10. I've always thought that I-12 should be called I-10 (with I-10 numbered as I-x10, or I-6 if you must have a 1 or 2 digit interstate), but the new city will require good connectivity to the north, east, and west. Perhaps I-10 could be rebuilt like the Atchafalaya Swamp Freeway, well above flood level. The side benefit of this may be that the Mississippi could be allowed to flood southeastern Louisiana again, rebuilding those much talked about wetlands that the experts say would have shielded New Orleans.

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