- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 1, 2015

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu has appointed a 13-member panel charged with coming up with ways to pay for the massive backlog of work needed to fix the city’s streets.

Multiple news outlets report the group, known as the Fix My Streets Financing Working Group, includes engineers, city council members, finance and transportation professionals and leaders of an activist group for which it is named. The group is charged with delving into the funding and prioritization of road construction in the city.

Complaints about the state of the city’s streets have been rising in recent years. Prior to Hurricane Katrina, about one-third of city streets were rated in fair or worse condition, and even more are in worse condition today, the mayor’s office said.

While Landrieu touted progress that has been made since he took office, he also pointed Monday to the massive cost of properly fixing the streets and said he empathized with frustrations of residents - including those who founded the “Fix My Streets” campaign for which the group is named.

Landrieu said, “Many people feel like because their streets aren’t getting done, progress isn’t being made.”

What funding solutions the group might come up with are unclear.

In announcing the group, Landrieu repeatedly mentioned searching for untapped local, state and federal funding sources, though he did not identify any that he thought the city had not yet tapped.

“It might be another 20 years before our children can look back and say, ‘Thank you for taking this first step,’ ” Fix My Streets founder Robert Lupo said.

A long-term approach has driven at least some of the city’s thinking on road repairs so far. The $9.3 billion estimate for the entire city - based on the figure of $7 million to pave each mile of the city’s minor streets - assumes the streets will be completely reconstructed, not just patched. That approach is more expensive but is expected to lead to fewer problems in the future.

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